I rather fell in love with the blurb for this one – after all, I’m a huge fan of Becky Chambers and Mary Robinette Kowal. And I also liked the cover, although there is a version that I far prefer than this one. But a far-future sci fi adventure on Earth with a wild west vibe? Yippee!
BLURB: Earth, the distant future: climate change has reduced our verdant home into a hard-scrabble wasteland. Saints and sinners, lawmakers and sheriffs, travellers and gunslingers and horse thieves abound. People are as diverse and divided as they’ve ever been – except in their shared suspicions when a stranger comes to town. One night a ship falls from the sky, bringing the planet’s first visitor in three hundred years. She’s armed, she’s scared… and she’s looking for someone.
Love, loss, and gunslinging in this dazzling debut novel by Grace Curtis. For fans of Sam J. Miller, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Becky Chambers, Frontier is a heartfelt queer romance in a high noon standoff with our planet’s uncertain future, full of thrills, a love story, and laser guns.
REVIEW: I think the first issue for me with this one is the very high expectation I had on picking it up. After all, a direct comparison with the likes of Becky Chambers and Mary Robinette Kowal means the standard of story-telling and characterisation has to be extremely high. And frankly, I don’t think the book delivered quite enough magic to be able to stand alongside both authors.
That doesn’t mean it is a bad read, however. Just that it isn’t an outstanding read. But I struggled quite badly with this one for nearly the first half. There is a particularly vile antagonist who keeps popping up and managing to win the day. Initially, I didn’t warm to the main protagonist all that much, even though she is clearly more principled than a number of the folks she encounters. But while it’s clearly flagged she’s looking for someone, we don’t know who. Neither do we really know who she is. And upsettingly (as far as I was concerned) nice people are carelessly gunned down as if they are nothing.
The level of violence also brought me up a bit short – though yes, I know it’s the wild west in a post-apocalyptic world. But Becky Chambers was also mentioned and I was expecting the more uplifting worlds that she depicts… So my progress through it was a bit of a trudge and I was considering DNFing it – until we got to the flashback sequence, when we get to properly meet the protagonist and understand her urgency and who she’s trying to find. And suddenly I was utterly invested the story. And wondering why on Earth this section didn’t appear a whole lot sooner in the book. That still really bugs me – I feel the narrative has been scrambled for some stylistic reason and frankly, that kind of mucking about is what drove me away from literary fiction in the first place.
From then on, the story gathered pace and I was hooked, thoroughly enjoying the denouement and the tender relationship between the protagonist and her lover. However, I’m giving this one three stars – and I haven’t done that with a book I’ve completed for a long time. While I obtained an arc of Frontier from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own. 6/10
Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine.
This week’s Can’t-Wait offering – Frontier by Grace Curtis – release date 9th March, 2023.
BLURB: Saints and preachers, librarians and horse thieves, lawmakers and lawbreakers, and a crash-surviving spaceborn vagrant searching for her lover on a scarred Earth.
Earth, the distant future: climate change has reduced our verdant home into a hard-scrabble wasteland. Saints and sinners, lawmakers and sheriffs, travellers and gunslingers and horse thieves abound. People are as diverse and divided as they’ve ever been – except in their shared suspicions when a stranger comes to town.
One night a ship falls from the sky, bringing the planet’s first visitor in three hundred years. She’s armed, she’s scared… and she’s looking for someone.
Love, loss, and gunslinging in this dazzling debut novel by Grace Curtis. For fans of Sam J. Miller, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Becky Chambers, Frontier is a heartfelt queer romance in a high noon standoff with our planet’s uncertain future, full of thrills, a love story, and laser guns. I haven’t read much science fiction this year so far. And that cover snagged my attention, as well as the intriguing setting. And while a lot of sci fi tends to be on the bleak side, this one sounded as if there could be some light relief. Especially if the blurb is right about the comparisons with Becky Chambers and Mary Robinette Kowal. Has anyone else read this one, yet?
Tammy of Books, Bones and Buffy gave this one a mention – and when I saw the cover and read the premise, I immediately requested it. And I’m so very glad I did…
BLURB:Ancillary Justice meets Red, White & Royal Blue in Everina Maxwell’s exciting debut.
While the Iskat Empire has long dominated the system through treaties and political alliances, several planets, including Thea, have begun to chafe under Iskat’s rule. When tragedy befalls Imperial Prince Taam, his Thean widower, Jainan, is rushed into an arranged marriage with Taam’s cousin, the disreputable Kiem, in a bid to keep the rising hostilities between the two worlds under control. But when it comes to light that Prince Taam’s death may not have been an accident, and that Jainan himself may be a suspect, the unlikely pair must overcome their misgivings and learn to trust one another as they navigate the perils of the Iskat court, try to solve a murder, and prevent an interplanetary war… all while dealing with their growing feelings for each other.
REVIEW: Well, this is great fun! I was immediately drawn into the story by the immersive writing, and my sympathy for happy-go-lucky Kiem went up several notches at his evident horror in being married off to someone so recently bereaved. Jainan, the Thean representative is far more difficult to get to know, but again, is likeable and sympathetic. Given the romance strand in this story runs alongside the wider ramifications of what will happen if the coming Treaty isn’t successfully ratified, it is very important that we bond with the two main protagonists.
I’ve read several other reviews that regard this story as mostly about the romance, with the rest of the storyline dealing with the tangle over the Treaty and growing suspicions regarding Taam’s death providing a convenient backdrop. I disagree. While I thoroughly enjoyed the unfolding romance, which is of the slow-burn variety fraught with misunderstandings all around, my attention was mostly drawn to the political situation developing within the Court. If it was written merely as a cardboard setting for the romance, I would have spotted it in a heartbeat and while I wouldn’t have necessarily DNF’d the book – the overall dynamic between them worked far too well for that – I certainly wouldn’t be giving it a nine.
I was impressed at the depth of the worldbuilding and how much I enjoyed the dynamic of the Iskat Empire, though in control of a solar system of seven planets, needing wider protection from bigger, more rapacious neighbours. I also liked the plurality on display – some Theans want to break away from Iskat, while others are clearly loyal to the Empire, such as Jainan, and within the Court there are also a number of factions. I also like the way same-sex relationships are treated. Not so much as an eyebrow is raised, demonstrating that it is clearly completely normalised within both Thean and Iskat societies.
I loved the actions scenes and the way the tension grew, making it all but impossible to put this one down until the end – and then I crashed quite hard once I finished it. All in all, this has been a wonderful start to my science fiction reads of 2021, and Everina Maxwell is clearly One To Watch. While I obtained an arc of Winter’s Orbit from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own. 9/10
The wonderful books I’ve encountered during this horrible year have, at times, kept my head straight when other pressures have added an extra twist of awfulness due to the pandemic. I have encountered a number of talented authors I’d previously not had the pleasure of reading (I’m looking at you Mary Robinette Kowal, Elisabeth Bear, Marilyn Messik and T. Kingfisher) and managed to complete 11 series, while working my way through 66 other series. I’ll get more nerdy in my post about the stats relating to my 2020 reads, later in the week.
During 2020 I read 184 books and wrote 155 full reviews, with 23 still to be published. In no particular order, these are the books that have stood out for me. It might be that I didn’t originally give them a 10 – but these books have stayed with me, which is why they made the cut. And let’s forget any top ten nonsense – whittling down my list to this paltry number was painful enough!
Guns of the Dawn by Adrian Tchaikovsky Despite reading this one back in January, I often found myself thinking about brave, clever Emily and what she underwent. That is the mark of a special book – when it won’t leave you alone. I think it’s one of Tchaikovsky’s best, and given the man’s towering talent, that’s saying something. See my review.
AUDIOBOOK Ancestral Night – Book 1 of the White Space series by Elizabeth Bear Elizabeth Bear is another wonderful author I discovered this year – and the good news is that she has a pleasingly long backlist. This one was an utter joy to listen to – Haimey’s first-person narrative held me throughout, even though the pacing was somewhat leisurely at times. This book at 500+ pages has it all – vivid action scenes, nail-biting tension, and plenty of plot twists and shocking reveals. And of course a space cat – who could resist that? See my review.
You Let me In by Camilla Bruce By rights, this shouldn’t have worked for me – I really don’t like books featuring an abused child. But the way Bruce posits this situation is masterfully done, as Cassie narrates her adventures with Pepperman, a grumpy and dangerous fae entity, who draws the small child into the world of the fae. This book has also stayed with me throughout the year. Read my review.
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Macksey This is such a simple book with lots of pictures. The story of four different creatures, who come together to help each other. It could so easily have turned into a treacly, sentimental mess. But it doesn’t. My lovely sister-in-law gave me my copy and it has been beside me ever since. Read my review.
TUYO – Book 1 of the Tuyo series by Rachel Neumeier The opening sequence of this book immediately hooked me and wouldn’t let me go. I enjoy Neumeier’s writing, anyway. But this amazing world and the vividness of her characters still have me regularly thinking about them. In particular, the depiction of being ensorcelled was brilliantly portrayed – I’ve never seen it done better. Read my review.
AUDIOBOOK Deep Roots – Book 2 of The Innsmouth Legacy by Ruthanna Emrys This riveting world has left me yearning for more after reading the first book Winter Tide, which made my Outstanding Reads of 2017. So I was thrilled to discover this offering. Aphra is still coming to terms with the loss of her parents, friends and relations when confronted with a new danger. Once more I was pulled into a tense adventure where Lovecraftian monsters were only part of the threat. Read my review.
Last Dragon Standing – Book 5 of the Heartstrikers series by Rachel Aaron This is as much about the celebration of this quirky, enjoyable series, as much as it is about the climactic battle that wraps up the story. Peopled with shape-shifting dragons, a powerful ghost who assumes the shape of a cat and an enraged nature goddess, this urban fantasy reaches epic proportions, with all sorts of surprises and twists along the way. Review to follow.
The Book of Koli – Book 1 of the Rampart trilogy by M.R. Carey I very much enjoyed The Girl With All the Gifts, but I liked this even better. Koli is an endearing character with his youth and restless energy that gets him into far too much trouble within his village. This book is set in post-apocalyptic England, where even trees have become feral – but there are welcome shafts of light, too. Read my review.
AUDIOBOOK The Mirror and the Light – Book 3 of the Thomas Cromwell series by Hilary Mantel This whole series is a tour de force and I loved listening to this extraordinary conclusion to Cromwell’s life, as an embittered Henry VIII becomes ever more difficult to deal with – and Cromwell’s many enemies begin to circle. I wept at the end, which was wonderfully handled – and I’m still trying to work out how Mantel managed to keep me spellbound for so long, when I already knew the outcome before listening to the first chapter. Read my review.
Relatively Strange – Book 1 of the Strange series by Marilyn Messik This was one of those books I picked up and couldn’t put down again. Messik’s writing is utterly addictive, as far as I’m concerned and Stella is now my new best friend. I finished this one far too fast and was miserable until I picked up the next one in the series. I think this was the worst book hangover I endured during the year. Review my review.
The Relentless Moon – Book 3 of the Lady Astronaut series by Mary Robinette Kowal This is another of those wonderful authors I discovered this year – and this series just blew me away. I loved Elma York and her battles to gain recognition during the first two books in the series – but when this story introduced me to Nicole, who finds herself trying to track down a saboteur on the Moon, I not only loved every single minute of the book, I couldn’t stop thinking about it, afterwards. Read my review.
A Memory Called Empire – Book 1 of the Teixcalaan series by Martine Arkady I tracked down this one, after hearing it compared to the great C.J. Cherryh’s immersive writing style. And I wasn’t disappointed. I loved watching poor Mahit, replacement ambassador to the enigmatic Teixcalaani empire, flounder as she tries to work out just how her predecessor died. This tense murder mystery played out in the far future kept me up far too late as I couldn’t put it down. Read my review.
AUDIOBOOK Charlotte Sometimes – Book 3 of the Aviary Hall series by Penelope Farmer I have always enjoyed reading Children’s fiction, because the very best is far too good just to leave to the kids. And this gem certainly falls into that category. A children’s classic that was published in 1969, it is written with depth and sophistication about two schoolgirls who cris-cross into each other’s times. Until something happens to Charlotte… I loved this one. Set in 1918, the period is beautifully portrayed and the bittersweet ending has stayed with me. Read my review.
A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher This is another of those books for children, which engrossed and delighted me. Mona is a baker’s apprentice with a small magical talent, who suddenly finds herself caught up in a murder. Events snowball entertainingly – and I found myself thoroughly enjoying Mona’s ingenious creations to try and stay ahead of the baddies. Review to follow.
AUDIOBOOK The Stranger Diaries – Book 1 of the Harbinder Kaur series by Elly Griffiths I enjoy Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway series, so decided to try this latest series and absolutely loved it. There is a tongue-in-cheek Gothic vibe that I found very appealing. Though I have a shocking memory, the twists and turns of this enjoyable murder mystery have stayed with me. Read my review.
The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken – Book 3 of the Vish Puri series by Tarquin Hall I was utterly beguiled by Vish when I first encountered him during the fifth book of the series, The Case of the Reincarnated Client earlier in the year and have been eking out the rest of the series ever since. Vish Puri is fond of calling himself the Indian Sherlock Holmes and his energetic attitude and passion for justice are very endearing – even if he does dismiss his clever, streetwise Mummy-Ji, who often takes a close interest in his cases. This book has an extra dimension and Hall is adept at dealing with hefty issues of the painful events around India’s partition in a respectful manner, without making it dreary. Read my review.
While I’d like to think that each one of these books offers some brain fodder, none of them are gloomy, downbeat reads as this year I needed to escape. And my favourite book of 2020? Probably Ancestor Nights, though I’m likely to claim it’s The Relentless Moon if you ask me the same question again tomorrow. And then there’s Relatively Strange, of course…
Janet Edwards, author of the successful Earth Girl series – see my reviews of Earth Girl,Earth Starand Earth Flight – is now one of my favourite science fiction authors. Her writing has a bounce and vividness that I thoroughly enjoy, while her young protagonists are invariably engaging and likeable. This intriguing crime-fighting series featuring Amber, who tracks down wrong-doers by reading their minds, is set in a far future where humans live in highly structured mega-cities underground. See my reviews of Telepath, Defender and Hurricane which are the previous books in the series. I was delighted when Edwards contacted me and asked if I’d like an arc copy of Borderline to read and review. This review is my honest opinion of the book and in no way affected by receipt of a copy by the author.
BLURB: Being a telepath means your greatest strength can also be your greatest weakness.
Eighteen-year-old Amber is the youngest of the five telepaths who protect the hundred million citizens of one of the great hive cities of twenty-sixth century Earth. Her job is hunting down criminals before they commit their crimes, but this time she must face multiple challenges.
The blurb continues for another paragraph, but to be honest, I don’t think the extra information is necessary. Amber is now established as one of the foremost telepaths in this huge hive city, but also increasingly under pressure as one of the other telepaths now needs to take a prolonged leave of absence while requiring urgent medical treatment. Edwards is very adept at communicating the rules for her world, without holding up the pace or indulging in info-dumps. The first-person narration works well, as Amber is at the heart of the story and we learn about the stresses on her, as touching minds full of violence and misery leave aftershocks that can destabilise her if they aren’t dealt with.
There is a strong supporting cast of well developed characters who operate as part of Amber’s team and I also love the shifting dynamic and growing amount of information we learn about the other, rather shadowy telepaths. It’s refreshing to see the stable, happy relationship between Amber and her partner – YA reads are notorious for providing lots of angst around the romance thread, but Edwards doesn’t choose to go down that route. I tucked into this one and the pages flew by as I was pulled along by Amber’s bouncy narrative and the action-packed story that held me right until the final sentence. And there was a doozy of a surprise near the end which I certainly didn’t see coming – I love it when that happens!
This one is very highly recommended for fans of sci fi crime and future worlds. Though this book can be enjoyed as a standalone, my advice would be to read the first three books first as this series is too good to read out of sequence.
This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.
I’m currently swept up in Christmas preparations, like many other folks. I’ve started buying presents and making a list of what to get who, started decorating the house, organised the Christmas menu and not even yet looked at my Christmas card list… On Wednesday, I attended Oscar’s Christmas show of Aladdin, where every child in the school ended up on the stage. It was a lovely show – and Oscar’s performance was one of the best. He delivered his lines clearly and confidently, even prompting his fellow actors. I was such a proud granny!
On Thursday, my daughter braved the atrocious weather to come and vote and while she did, little Eliza was left with us on her own for the first time. It wasn’t for long, but she was very happy to finish eating her lunch and play in the high chair. On Friday, Himself and I hit the shops to start on the mountain of pressies we end up buying at this time of year. On Saturday, we drove to Brighton to pick up the grandchildren to stay for the weekend so they could help with decorating the house. Frankie did sterling work with positioning all the Christmas toys and afterwards Oscar and I spent a cosy evening watching the Strictly Come Dancing final, which we thoroughly enjoyed. It helped that the right couple won – congratulations Oti and Kelvin on the best show dance ever.
Yesterday we had lunch at a local, riverside gastro pub with my parents, who travelled from Ringwood for a belated celebration of my mother’s birthday. It went brilliantly. Our table had lovely views over the river, the food was delicious and Mum was thrilled to be able to catch up with her great grandchildren. We then drove the children back to Brighton, and when we arrived home again, my lovely writing buddy, Mhairi, had already arrived after a long drive from Lincolnshire, to come and stay for a few days. We stayed talking into the wee small hours, which is why this has ended up being a Monday post…
Last week I read:
AUDIOBOOK The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.
At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them. Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.
This YA paranormal coming of age adventure charting the run-up to a defining annual race featuring the mysterious water horses, is outstanding for the glorious worldbuilding and characterisation. Review to follow.
Warrior – Book 1 of the Doppleganger series by Marie Brennan
When a witch is born, a doppelganger is created. For the witch to master her powers, the twin must be killed. But what happens when the doppelganger survives?
Mirage, a bounty hunter, lives by her wits and lethal fighting skills. She always gets her mark. But her new mission will take her into the shadowy world of witches, where her strength may not be a match against powerful magic.
Miryo is a witch who has just failed her initiation test. She now knows that there is someone in the world who looks like her, who is her: Mirage. To control her powers and become a full witch, Miryo has only one choice: to hunt the hunter and destroy her.
This dual narrative fantasy is an intriguing premise. I enjoyed the adventure featuring the two strong female protagonists – and I certainly didn’t see the solution to their problem. I’m looking forward to tucking into the next book int his series. Review to follow.
Borderline – Book 4 of the Hive Mind series by Janet Edwards
Being a telepath means your greatest strength can also be your greatest weakness.
Eighteen-year-old Amber is the youngest of the five telepaths who protect the hundred million citizens of one of the great hive cities of twenty-sixth century Earth. Her job is hunting down criminals before they commit their crimes, but this time she must face multiple challenges. While preparing to celebrate the New Year festival of family, Amber’s team have to deal with a case where the stakes grow increasingly personal. The help of Amber’s borderline telepath counsellor, Buzz, becomes crucial.
Edwards is one of my favourite science fiction authors. Her heroine, Amber, is a thoroughly likeable girl whose strong telepathic talent has tipped her sideways into a completely life to the one she thought she’d be leading. This series has charted her adventures in helping to keep law and order within the densely populated Hive city, built underground to protect humanity from the environmental damage on Earth’s surface generations earlier. As ever, a page-turning, engrossing read, full of incident and excitement. Review to follow.
This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this this week we are featuring FUTURISTIC covers. I’ve selected the classic sci fi adventure Use of Weapons – Book 3 of the Culture series by Iain M. Banks. I have linked this week’s Friday Faceoff to @SciFiMonth2019.
This edition was produced by Orbit in March 1993. I like the colour tones of the cover, but I’d like that cool, futuristic city to be more visible, rather than lurking in the background. And while I’m aware that it is Banks’ name that is selling the book, the title font is all but invisible in that colour against the background, the minute this cover gets minimised.
This French edition, published in November 2011 by Ailleurs & Demain, far more successfully evokes the feeling of a far future settlement. I love the use of those cool blues… This one would have been my favourite, but for that hideously ugly textbox plonked off-centre as a complete afterthought. What a shame!
Published by Le Livre de Poche in September 2007, this French edition is the reason why I picked this book for this subject. I love this scene with the huge mothership looming above with the nippy fighter craft zipping about and all those cool-looking futuristic weaponry on display. The title and author font has a pleasing synergy with the tone and feel of the cover design. I think this one nails it and is my favourite.
This Hungarian edition, published by Agave Könyvek in 2006, takes a different approach. I get the sense that you wouldn’t want to be sitting in that chair with all those nasty, sharp-looking armaments pointing at you… This cover radiates an effective sense of menace, but the title font is again, very underpowered when set against that punchy artwork.
This German edition, published in April 2015 by Heyne Verlag, is a great spacescape – what’s not to love? While it hasn’t got the cool detail of the French edition, it’s space, baby! And both author and title font also are effectively displayed and complement the design. Which is your favourite?
I absolutely loved the Children of Time – it’s one of my all-time favourite science fiction books. So was thrilled to hear that there was a sequel on its way and even more thrilled when I was approved to read and review it.
Thousands of years ago, Earth’s terraforming program took to the stars. On the world they called Nod, scientists discovered alien life – but it was their mission to overwrite it with the memory of Earth. Then humanity’s great empire fell, and the program’s decisions were lost to time. Aeons later, humanity and its new spider allies detected fragmentary radio signals between the stars. They dispatched an exploration vessel, hoping to find cousins from old Earth. But those ancient terraformers woke something on Nod better left undisturbed. And it’s been waiting for them.
Once more, this is an ambitious, well-written epic adventure featuring humans, spiders and octopuses all as intelligent, sentient beings. Not only does this book encompass three species and convincingly depict their struggles to communicate with each other and amongst themselves, it sprawls across a brain-achingly long timespan. Furthermore, it does so whilst fracturing the timespan, so that some of it is told out of sequence…
I am a solid fan of Tchaikovsky’s work and familiar with the recurrent themes in his writing. I particularly love his knack of giving us unintended consequences, which is exactly what happens when a bored, rather lonely terraforming scientist decides to uplift a species of octopus to act as maintenance crews to the underwater equipment altering the planet for human use. No one writes non-human species better, in my opinion. I was completely convinced by what drove the spiders and the octopus societies, while the humans caught up in the middle of the crisis were also convincingly portrayed.
You might be sensing a but – and yes… there is one. For all that, I found the first half of this book rather a trudge. It might well be me – right now I’m tired and extremely stressed, although that doesn’t usually impact upon my reading. But while I was enjoying the slices of the adventure, I found the scrambled timeline really frustrating and at times, difficult to follow.
Once the stakes were clear and the action lined up for the desperate denouement, which was entirely gripping and held me throughout, the book rolled forward to a triumphant conclusion that will leave me pondering what happened for weeks and months to come. Tchaikovsky’s books tend to do that to me – it’s why I love reading them so much.
However, this one was a struggle and while it probably is more me than the book, I have to be honest about my reading experience. However, don’t be put off – especially if you loved Children of Time. Recommended for fans of well-written, first contact adventures with big, thought-provoking themes. The ebook arc copy of Children of Ruin was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.
It’s been the first full week of the school holidays – and we travelled back to Brighton to pick up Frances on Tuesday from her last day at school. She was thrilled with the prospect of the summer break and to celebrate we stopped off at the local Haskins for a round of hand-made pizzas, which were very yummy. On Wednesday, Frances joined in my Pilates and Fitstep lessons during the morning in the sweltering village hall and in the afternoon, we met up with my sister and had a long, leisurely lunch – it was too hot to do anything else. On Thursday, we needed to shop for a few bits and pieces, when I discovered the delights of iced coffee and Frances sampled a hot chocolate scone, thinking she was getting a cookie…
On Friday, my writing buddy Mhairi came over for the day and we spent some of the time formatting Running Out of Space in preparation for a paperback version – the rest of the time, we were busy closing down and unplugging the computers and router when several thunderstorms swept through. During the evening, we went beach to see if we could see the lunar eclipse but though we waited, hoping the cloud cover would thin, it didn’t. However, we were treated to an amazing display of blood-red lightning, presumably reflecting from the colour of the moon. It was supposed to be my friend’s birthday party on Saturday evening, but poor Sally was crippled with a bad back, so I helped her ring around the guests to postpone it until she feels better, while Frances walked to the beach with Tim. Today we are travelling to visit my mother and father who haven’t seen Frances since last year.
This week I have read:
White Silence – Book 1 of the Elizabeth Cage series by Jodi Taylor
Elizabeth Cage is a child when she discovers that there are things in this world that only she can see. But she doesn’t want to see them and she definitely doesn’t want them to see her.
What is a curse to Elizabeth is a gift to others – a very valuable gift they want to control. This paranormal thriller has plenty of the energy and twists I’ve come to expect from Taylor’s writing in her very successful The Chronicles of St Mary’s series, though Elizabeth definitely isn’t the adrenaline-junkie that Max is… A highly entertaining roller-coaster read.
Like a Boss – Book 2 of thendswept series by Adam Rukunas
After buying her favourite rum distillery and settling down, she thought she’d heard the last of her arch nemesis, Evanrute Saarien. But Saarien, fresh out of prison for his misdeeds in Windswept, has just fabricated a new religion, positioning himself as its holy leader. He’s telling his congregation to go on strike, to fight the system. And unfortunately, they’re listening to him. This sequel to the successful Windswept isn’t perhaps as sharp or well realised as the first book, but I was happy to go along with the adventure, given I’m very fond of Padma and love the world.
The Tea Master and the Detective – The Xuya Universe novella by Aliette de Bodard
Welcome to the Scattered Pearls Belt, a collection of ring habitats and orbitals ruled by exiled human scholars and powerful families, and held together by living mindships who carry people and freight between the stars. In this fluid society, human and mindship avatars mingle in corridors and in function rooms, and physical and virtual realities overlap, the appareance of environments easily modified and adapted to interlocutors or current mood.
A transport ship discharged from military service after a traumatic injury, The Shadow’s Child now ekes out a precarious living as a brewer of mind-altering drugs for the comfort of space-travellers. Meanwhile, abrasive and eccentric scholar Long Chau wants to find a corpse for a scientific study. When Long Chau walks into her office, The Shadow’s Child expects an unpleasant but easy assignment. When the corpse turns out to have been murdered, Long Chau feels compelled to investigate, dragging The Shadow’s Child with her. This is space-based whodunit nods to the Sherlock Holmes series, while adding important ingredients that can only exist in the far future. An intriguing, entertaining read.
The Great Alone by Kristen Hannah
Alaska, 1974. Unpredictable. Unforgiving. Untamed. For a family in crisis, the ultimate test of survival. Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: he will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier.
Thirteen-year-old Leni, a girl coming of age in a tumultuous time, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, dares to hope that a new land will lead to a better future for her family. She is desperate for a place to belong. Her mother, Cora, will do anything and go anywhere for the man she loves, even if it means following him into the unknown. I loved this one. The writing is lyrical, the worldbuilding exceptional and the story full of unexpected twists. And that cover – ooo… Many thanks to my lovely mother for sending this one to me.
The cool cover immediately caught my eye and I know Himself has enjoyed the Schooled in Magic series, so I decided to give it a go.
A year after the Commonwealth won the war with the Theocracy, the interstellar cruise liner Supreme is on its maiden voyage, carrying a host of aristocrats thrilled to be sharing in a wondrous adventure among the stars. The passengers include the owner and his daughters, Angela and Nancy. Growing up with all the luxuries in the world, neither sister has ever known true struggle, but that all changes when Supreme comes under attack…
I am not going to continue further with the blurb as it gets a bit chatty – suffice to say events all slide away very rapidly. I really enjoyed this one, but if you are looking for foot-to-the-floor action from the first page, then this one isn’t for you. This is very much a gradual buildup where we get to know several members of the crew, including the captain, as well as the other main character, Angela, who is the owner’s eldest daughter. She is an interesting character as she isn’t particularly likeable, being rather spoiled and self-entitled which is in stark contrast to the two stewards we get to know who are working flatout to get the ship ready for the rich, demanding passengers. That said, I don’t particularly envy Angela either, despite her wealth, as it comes with major strings that she only begins to realise during the voyage.
Despite the slow build, I wasn’t remotely tempted to pull away as I found all the everyday details and worldbuilding around the rhythms of the ship fascinating. I particularly liked the long-suffering captain who is more used to serving with the military and is finding working with the civilian crew pandering to the needs of wealthy passengers a very steep learning curve.
When it all hits the fan and chaos ensues, I felt the long lead-up paid dividends as I was completely invested in a number of characters and genuinely cared about their fate. There were one or two characters who I would have liked to see more of – particularly young Nancy, although I am very much hoping this is going to be the start of a new series. In which case, perhaps she will feature in another book. Once the action kicks off, the nasty surprises just keep on coming as the hapless crew and passengers are assailed on all sides by a truly terrifying force. The climax is every bit as exciting and unexpected as you would want, with an intriguing twist that allows for this book to be the start of a new, enjoyable series.
This one is recommended for space opera fans who enjoy spaceship-centred stories. While I obtained an arc of The Hyperspace Trap from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.