Tag Archives: feisty heroine

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Into the Fire – Book 2 of Vatta’s Peace by Elizabeth Moon


I loved Cold Welcome which was one of my favourite books of 2017 – see my review here, so I was really excited when this second book in the series was published.

When Admiral Kylara Vatta and a ship full of strangers were marooned on an inhospitable arctic island, they uncovered secrets that someone on Ky’s planet was ready to kill to keep hidden. Now, the existence of the mysterious arctic base has been revealed, but the organisation behind it still lurks in the shadows, doing all it can to silence her. It is up to the intrepid Ky to force the perpetrators into the light and uncover decades’ worth of secrets – some of which lie at the very heart of her family’s greatest tragedy.

If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading Cold Welcome, then I suggest you put this one on hold and track it down, because the story carries on almost seamlessly from that first adventure featuring Ky Vatta and the other hapless passengers who crashed into the sea with her. However, this story also includes a lot of the characters who featured in Moon’s previous series, Vatta’s War. As I have read all the books in this space opera adventure series, I was delighted to meet up with characters whom I regarded as old friends. Himself, who only read the first book, found he was floundering at bit at the start.

I found this story to be gripping and tension-filled as Ky finds herself once more in the middle of a mess of trouble. This time though, she is back home where she should feel safe. I really liked the fact that she was once more confronted with a situation where she didn’t know who to trust. Moon is very good at building the tension and providing an atmosphere of suspicion. It seems particularly hard on the poor souls who endured all sorts of hardships, while struggling to survive in desperate conditions, only also to face imprisonment where they are drugged into drooling helplessness.

One aspect I appreciated is that now she is back home, Ky finds she has to deal with her cousin, Stella. The two don’t particularly get on, mostly because they clashed a lot during their teens. The cliché would be that because they are Family and under threat, the two young women would suddenly pull together – and it was refreshing that Moon sidesteps that wornout trope and provides us with a more interesting and believable dynamic. The other main character who faces a crisis is Grace, who in theory, as Rector of the planet, should be well guarded and entirely capable of coping with any threat to her leadership. Events prove otherwise.

The story is fast-moving, with plenty going on. And unlike Cold Welcome, the viewpoint swings between a larger cast of main characters, both protagonists and villains. Moon is deft at quickly establishing sympathetic characters and making me care about what happens to them and I found myself caught up in the plot, reluctant to put the book down until I knew what happens next. Of course, with such a steady build-up in tension, the climax of the book has to really matter and Moon succeeds in producing plenty of action as both sides make their move. I thoroughly enjoyed this one and will be eagerly looking out for the next book in this engaging series. This is recommended for fans of science fiction thrillers – though ideally, you should first read the Vatta’s War series and Cold Welcome.


Review of Split Feather – Book 1 of The Daughter of the Midnight Sun series by Deborah A. Wolf


I saw this one on the library shelves, liked the look of it and notwithstanding the fact that my TBR pile has reached crazy proportions, I took it home.

Siggy J. Alexie is a troubled young woman. Taken from her family as a toddler, abandoned by her adoptive mother into the foster care system as a preteen, she is haunted by a history of abandonment, abuse, and mental health issues. She is also haunted by a demon. Siggy sees ghosts and demons, has conversations with beings she knows aren’t really there, suffers from cluster headaches, coffee addiction, and terminal bad language, and has a hot temper that just won’t quit. She lives in a crappy trailer in the woods in Bearpaw, Michigan – alone, just the way she likes it. But then she goes and does something heroic and screws up her rotten life even further.

That’s as much as the very chatty blurb I’m willing to share, but do be warned, it continues at some length and gives at least a couple of major plotpoints that you’d be better off reading within the story. The other warning – while it mentions it, if you are offended by strong language, then this isn’t the book for you. There is extensive use of the f word throughout, because as Siggy admits – she is a potty-mouth. However, I really warmed to the punchy first-person narrative which manages to portray an abused, troubled young woman without a scrap of whining or self pity. In fact, despite the bleakness of her life, she is frequently very funny, which worked well in bonding me to her and ensuring I really cared about what happens to her.

Her life doesn’t make for pretty reading – the foster-care system she ends up in is clearly broken and has left her to fend for herself with a sub-standard education and dealing with issues she shouldn’t have to. As well as having to cope with a demon who constantly plagues her.

I really like this aspect of the book. The demon can be taken at face value as one of the otherworldly creatures inhabiting this fantasy novel – or the demon can be seen as the personification of her own self-loathing. Either way works well and I enjoyed the fact that Wolf gives us an opportunity to read that layer into the story. The writing is sensually very rich – we know most of the time what Siggy is smelling and how the landscape impacts upon her as senses as well as emotionally. Not only does this give us another layer of information, it also underlines the impression of Siggy’s otherness. Of course, with such a vivid protagonist, we also need a suitably horrible antagonist – and Wolf delivers a couple, who are also both women, which I really enjoyed.

The other interesting aspect of this book is there is no romantic attachment, which – given Siggy’s messed up emotional state, was something of a relief. She isn’t in a fit state to be falling love. Yet all too often in this genre, a heroine staggers away from a series of incidents dire enough to have Superwoman buckling at the knees, only to fling herself into the arms of a handily available man, professing her love. Frankly, she’d be better off with a long, hot shower and a lie-down. Alone.

All in all, this is a really good start to what promises to be a fascinating and engrossing series. Recommended to urban fantasy fans who like gritty, vivid protagonists and a well-told story.

Review of KINDLE Ebook Killbox – Book 4 of the Sirantha Jax series by Ann Aguirre


I read and reviewed the first books in this excellent series a while ago – see my review of Grimspace.

Sirantha Jax is a “Jumper,” a woman who possesses the unique genetic makeup needed to navigate faster than light ships through grimspace. With no tolerance for political diplomacy, she quits her ambassador post so she can get back to saving the universe the way she does best—by mouthing off and kicking butt.

I’ve omitted the rest of the blurb as it is rather chatty. It has been far too long since I read the third book in this series, Doubleblind, and my recollections of that story are somewhat hazy, so I was interested to see if I’d flounder at all. I didn’t. Therefore, I would suggest that if you want to crash midway into this series (though I’m not quite sure why you would as the first three books are great reads) this would be a good spot to do so.

Sirantha Jax is an excellent protagonist. Uniquely gifted due to an unusual set of circumstances, with a very colourful past, she is strong-minded and confident to the point of arrogance – which makes a nice change from the plethora of young, uncertain protagonists we often get. That said, she also has her vulnerabilities and the people she deeply cares about – and thanks to the dire situation humanity is now facing, there is good chance none of them will make it. Aguirre depicts the stresses causes by continual combat very well, while the action scenes are well handled with plenty of tension. The stakes steadily rise throughout the book and I found this one difficult to put down as the story drew me in.

There is a strong supporting cast of likeable characters, including Sirantha’s partner and pilot, March, who has telepathic powers and a young Jumper called Angus who she is training. I held my breath throughout the combat scenes, hoping none of my favourites would die, as Aguirre is quite capable of killing off established characters, which is a measure of how much I empathised with the world and its inhabitants.

As for the ending, while it wraps up the current storylines it does leave the situation on a cliff-hanger ending and I am very glad the next book, Aftermath, is already available – and I certainly won’t be leaving it so long before tucking into it.


Review of Indie Ebook Raven’s Children – Book 2 of the Sequoyah series by Sabrina Chase


I loved the first book in this series and while I generally like to space out reading a series so I don’t lock onto an author’s writing tics, this time around I couldn’t wait so dived back into this book.

Moire Cameron, former NASA explorer and web pilot, now has a working ship, a loyal crew, an unexpected son, and a valuable Earthlike planet to protect from the clutches of Toren. However, her enemies won’t give up – and then, there’s the children…

I’ve cut short the rather chatty blurb and my advice is not to read it as it gives away far too much of the storyline. Moire is a strong protagonist, though this book doesn’t focus quite so much on her storyline as there is a lot going on around her. I love the fact that Chase drives forward the story, crackling with action and tension. If there is any grizzle, it is perhaps Moire’s character is slightly swamped by everything happening around her as events continue to teeter on the edge of disaster. There are moments when it would have been nice to slow down just a tad to fully appreciate how all the changes carrying on around her are fully impacting upon her. That said, it is a really picky point and is only engendered by my love for the character. As for the relationships around Moire – while she is rebuilding her life in this new world, she hasn’t the luxury of spending much time and energy to lavish on the people who she cares about. Apart from anything else, she is terrified of dragging them into the danger she is in.

I really enjoyed the way the story unfolds and the constant suspense and surprises that Chase manages to deliver. Some of the plot progression I could see coming – but a whole lot more caught me unawares and I enjoyed sinking into the rhythm of the story and going with the flow. The supporting cast around Moire also continue to develop, helping to power the story. The most intriguing plot thread concerns one of the salvage ships they find drifting, damaged and abandoned – and this particular discovery overrides all other concerns. This is cleverly handled by Chase, whose worldbuilding is very effective and is one of her strengths in this engrossing series. I’m looking forward to seeing how this plays out in the final book in the trilogy.

All in all, this book ended far too quickly and I can guarantee that it won’t be long before I also dive into the final book, Queen of Chaos, to find out how Chase wraps up this story. Recommended for fans of character-led space opera with a strong story.


*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Eye of the North by Sinéad O’Hart


I wanted to read and review more YA and children’s books this year, so when this one caught my eye due to the interesting premise, I requested it and couldn’t be more pleased. It’s a delight…

When Emmeline’s scientist parents mysteriously disappear, she finds herself heading for a safe house, where allies have pledged to protect her. But along the way, things don’t go as planned…

This steampunk adventure is huge fun that hits the ground running and doesn’t let up until the end. Emmeline is brought up a solitary child in a creepy house infested with all sorts of dangerous creatures and is more or less left to get on with it as her scientist parents have to do a lot of travelling. Until a fateful day when everything goes wrong… Do try to avoid reading the blurb which is far too chatty and gives away more of the plot than is necessary. That said, there is plenty of plot in this action-packed story brimful of interesting, likeable characters. Generally I am not a huge fan of stories where yet another set of new characters pop up in each scene, but somehow O’Hart manages to pull it off. Other than Emmeline, whose gritty self-assurance gets her through all sorts of tight spots, my favourite character has to be Thing, the vagabond boy she encounters on the liner. But there are plenty of other enjoyable, strong-minded characters to choose from as steampunk tends to roll along with lots of action and relatively little angst. It was when Thing had a wobble about his grim childhood that I bonded with him and felt that vulnerability gave him more reader-appeal.

There is also a pleasing number of unpleasant villains ranged against Emmeline and the people trying to prevent the impending apocalypse – my favourite is Doctor Siegfried Bauer as he is so magnificently horrible, especially to poor Emmeline. But the North Witch is also a thoroughly nasty character who poses all sorts of problems. Once the action really takes off, we have the two main protagonists, Emmeline and Thing alternating in telling the story, occasionally interspersed by other members of the supporting cast. O’Hart’s strong writing and deft handling of the rising tension makes this a really gripping read that didn’t want to let me go when I should have been up and about instead of finishing the book.

The denouement has to deliver after so much energy and tension has been expended during the rising action and in this case, it does, while all the dangling plotpoints are satisfactorily tidied up. I’m very much hoping that this book does well, because although I cannot see any sign of this being the first in a series, I’d love to read more about Emmeline and her family in another madcap adventure. Recommended for precocious readers from 10/11 years old onwards.


New Cover for Dying for Space – Book 2 of the Sunblinded trilogy


I have recently been lucky enough to have a shiny new cover for Dying for Space produced by superfriend Mhairi, who agreed with me that the original covers for the series weren’t hitting the spot – and announced that she could make me something more genre-specific. So she did…

It’s great, isn’t it? I love the fact that Mhairi used images of the same girl on both covers in the series. Dying for Space is available at Amazon.com for $2.78 and at Amazon.co.uk for £1.99.

And in case you missed it, this is the cover for Running Out of Space. I think they look really good together. Running Out of Space is available at Amazon.com for $1.37 and at Amazon.co.uk for £0.99.


Sunday Post – 11th February, 2018


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

No… I haven’t been abducted by aliens two weekends in a row. Last weekend, Himself and I attended a conference on marketing indie books at Runneymede, which was marvellous fun and very intense – I haven’t yet had a chance to absorb all the information we received.

It was a busy week as I was teaching both Monday and Tuesday evening, spent Wednesday evening with the wonderful folks at my writing group, where I read a slice of my WIP and on Thursday, after catching up with my writing buddy, Mhairi, during the evening I attended the West Sussex Writers meeting, which this month was featuring a manuscript surgery. It was an excellent evening. I had the pleasure of acting as facilitator to a lovely writer in the process of writing a fantasy adventure for youngsters. When the winner and two runners-up were announced for the Poetry Competition, I was delighted that all three poets are students of mine – and to cap it all, I also won a book in the raffle. On Friday morning I was teaching and then in the afternoon I had a meeting with the very nice chap who looks after my website to discuss the changes I’m hoping to make throughout the year.

Yesterday, I drove to Ringwood to stay over with my parents, who then took me to a lovely restaurant, The Jetty, in Christchurch. Unfortunately, the rain swept in, so the views of the wonderful natural harbour at Christchurch were a tad murky, though the fabulous food more than made up for it. We had a lovely drive through the New Forest this morning in bright sunshine and a wonderful cooked breakfast, before a cosy chat with Mum – the time sped by and I drove home before it got dark. The only thing that spoilt the weekend was that my sister was due to come with me, but was ill so couldn’t make it.

This coming week is half term, so I am hoping to get through loads of work. Have a great week, everyone!

This week I have read:

Going Grey – Book 1 of the Ringer series by Karen Traviss
Who do you think you are? Ian Dunlap doesn’t know. When he looks in the mirror, he’s never sure if he’ll see a stranger. After years of isolation, thinking he’s crazy, he discovers he’s the product of an illegal fringe experiment in biotechnology that enables him to alter his appearance at will. And the only people he can trust to help him find out who and what he is are two former soldiers trying to make their way in the high-stakes world of private security. He’s got a unique and disturbing skill: they can help him to harness it—and maybe even learn to accept it. Set ten years from today, these three unlikely allies search for identity and loyalty in an uncertain world.

This is an entertaining, action-packed military sci fi adventure with some engaging characters and lots going on.

No Time Like the Past – Book 5 of The Chronicles of St Mary’s by Jodi Taylor
St Mary’s has been rebuilt and it’s business as usual for the History department. But first, there’s the little matter of a seventeenth-century ghost that only Mr Markham can see. Not to mention the minor inconvenience of being trapped in the Great Fire of London…and an unfortunately-timed comfort break at Thermopylae leaving the fate of the western world hanging in the balance.

Re-join Max’s madcap journey through time in Jodi Taylor’s fifth inter-dimensional instalment No Time Like the Past.

Jodi Taylor nails it again. I love this wonderfully chaotic series, packed full of action, humour and tragedy. There aren’t many books that have me laughing aloud and sniffling into a hanky within a handful of pages – but this series does it every time.

My posts last week:

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Shadow Play: A British Police Procedural – Book 20 of the Bill Slider series by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

Teaser Tuesday featuring No Time Like the Past – Book 5 of The Chronicles of St Marys by Jodi Taylor

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Keeper of the Watch – Book 1 of the Dimension 7 series by Kristen L. Jackson

Friday Face-off – My, what big teeth you have… featuring Spellwright – Book 1 of the Spellwright trilogy by Blake Charlton

Reblog of Review of Running Out of Space (Sunblinded: 1) by S.J. Higbee

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

… what happens when there’s no bullet to bite on…
https://seumasgallacher.com/2018/02/09/what-happens-when-theres-no-bullet-to-bite-on/ This cautionary tale needs a strong stomach – be warned – DON’T click on this link if you have recently eaten.

Conquerors of the Useless – A Winter of Rock Climbing https://roamwildandfree.com/2018/02/08/conquerers-of-the-useless-a-winter-of-rock-climbing/ More stunning pictures that also left me a tad queasy, but for a completely different reason…

Senior Moments https://blogging807.wordpress.com/2018/02/06/senior-moments/ And a drop of humour…

10 of the Best Poems of Farewell https://interestingliterature.com/2018/02/07/10-of-the-best-poems-of-farewell/ Another excellent article from this site.

People are Making Books Out of Jellyfish Now https://kristentwardowski.wordpress.com/2018/02/06/people-are-making-books-out-of-jellyfish-now/ It is a really good post, but one of the reasons I included it was because of that amazing title.

Thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site.


Review for Running Out Of Space (Sunblinded: 1) by S. J. Higbee


I was delighted to get this review from Donna – particularly as she didn’t pick up the book feeling especially enthusiastic about it, but then got drawn into Lizzy’s problems, anyway. Thank you Donna, for an honest review:)


I can’t recall whose idea it was. Just that me and mis amigas were sick of wading through yet another unjust punishment detail. So we decide to take ourselves off on a short jaunt to the lower reaches of Space Station Hawking to prove that fertile Iberian girls can also deal with danger.

The consequences of that single expedition change the lives of all four of us, as well as that of the stranger who steps in to save us down in lawless Basement Level. Now I have more excitement and danger than I can handle, while confronting lethal shipboard politics, kidnapping, betrayal. And murder.



When I first started reading this I found it kind of hard to connect and get involved in the story. It was slow going. But, I have to say this may be…

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*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Keeper by Kim Chance


I really liked the look of the cover – and the words witch and bookworm turning up in the same paragraph meant I was scurrying to request this YA offering.

When a 200-year-old witch attacks her, sixteen-year-old bookworm Lainey Styles is determined to find a logical explanation. Even with the impossible staring her in the face, Lainey refuses to believe it—until she finds a photograph linking the witch to her dead mother.

As the rest of the blurb is somewhat chatty, I have decided to leave it out. Lainey is an endearing protagonist whose genuine shock upon finding a hidden layer of her life had me immediately on her side. The inevitable loss of pace as she struggles to come to terms with what is happening to her is nicely mitigated by her loyal, geeky friend who and watches scads of supernatural/superhero stories and is beside herself with excitement to find that her life is suddenly mirroring those of her heroes. Chance is deft with the humour while keeping up the pace and tension. And indeed, the pace never truly lets up as Lainey is confronted with one disturbing truth after another, as the situation becomes ever more desperate. For she is confronted with a truly horrible antagonist. I very much like the fact that despite never leaving Lainey’s viewpoint, we become fully aware of just what a nasty piece of work The Master is. We are also very clear as to why he is so strongly motivated to get hold of her and while she is ‘the chosen one’ that rapidly becomes far more of a life-shortening burden as Chance relentlessly continues to ramp up stakes. This book became quite difficult to put down once we reached a certain stage.

The inevitable romance was well handled, though I was intrigued when Lainey’s ear tips kept getting hot every time she was too close to her heartthrob. I was pleased to see that the romance stayed firmly within the bounds of the YA genre and didn’t stray into New Adult territory. As ever in a successful fantasy adventure, the supporting characters were also key to providing a rounded, entertaining story that kept the pages turning. And just when I thought I knew where this one was headed, it took off into another direction.

At present, it is being presented as a stand-alone, however, I really would like to see what happens next, and I am hoping this story is sufficiently successful that the publishers will request another book. I, for one, want to read more about Lainey and that grimoire…


Review of KINDLE Ebook Ranter’s Wharf by Rosemary Noble


Rosemary Noble happens to attend my Fitstep class and when we discussed our relative projects, I tracked down her book as it sounded really interesting…

This is a family saga about love, loss and betrayal. It is an intimate portrayal of a family dealing with big ideas of the times. The backdrop is the decaying, coastal town of Grimsby trying to reinvent itself amid the turmoil of the Napoleonic wars, dissenting religion and the fight for voting reform.

When Betsy, a strong and determined spinster of independent means, adopts her motherless nephew, she doesn’t mean to fall head over heels in love with the child. When she plucks William from the bosom of his family, she does it out of self-interest, hoping to thwart unwelcome suitors. Her plans to raise William as a gentleman, allowing his respectability to rub off on herself, almost works. But things don’t always go to plan…

I’ve somewhat tweaked the very chatty blurb which gives away far too much of the story – but this is a historical novel loosely based on Noble’s own family history. She has clearly assiduously researched the period and knows a great deal about living conditions, the geography and weather conditions. As a fellow historian, I am full of admiration for her close attention to detail – but in order to write an entertaining story, there needs to be strong characters that ping off the page the reader can identify with and a page-turning story. So has Noble also managed to people her vivid depiction of a by-gone age with sufficiently readable characters and an engrossing tale? Oh yes.

I particularly loved the opening section of the book when we see Betsy visiting her stricken brother on the day of his wife’s funeral with a proposition to take one of his children and raise him as her own. As a point of information, this arrangement was far commoner than you might think. Time and again, records show that one child from a large family is taken off to be brought up by aunts, uncles, grandparents and in quite a lot of examples, older married siblings. What those records don’t report is how it turned out. Betsy becomes devoted to the bright, intelligent little boy, who grows up to be able to first rent and then buy a small dairy farm. It may not seem much, but is a world away from the labouring jobs that were his father’s lot.

We then follow the fortunes of that small boy – William – and what happens to him and his children, as well as charting what becomes of the family he left behind. As well as the personal family drama, what I found particularly fascinating is how Noble also situates the family’s fortunes within the political situation of the time. She shows us William’s involvement in the Primitive Methodist movement which also gives us an insight into how working men coped with the dreadful conditions they found themselves confronting after the Napoleonic War ravaged the economy. The following generation becomes even more embroiled in the politics of the day when his son John gets increasingly caught up with the Chartists.

Reading of this particular family dealing with the fallout, brought home to me just how high the price was and how our social history was sculpted by brave, forward-thinking men and women whose consciences wouldn’t let them rest when so many around them were suffering such acute privation. It also makes it easier to understand how some of the modern faultlines in our Parliamentary and class system came into being.

Noble provides a highly readable account of a turning point in the political life of the country and is recommended for anyone who enjoys historical fiction that gives an insight into who we are now.