Tag Archives: George Mann

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Revenant Express by George Mann #Brainfluffbookreview #TheRevenantExpressbookreview

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This is the long-awaited next book in this entertaining steampunk, gothic series featuring our two heroic crime fighters Maurice Newbury and Veronica Hobbes.

Following their bloody encounter with the Executioner, Sir Maurice Newbury’s assistant Veronica Hobbes is close to death. Desperate to save her life, Newbury and Veronica’s sister Amelia board a sleeper train bound for St. Petersburg, in the hope that Gustav Faberge might have the answer. But there are enemies on board, and Newbury and Amelia will need all their strength and cunning to survive the Revenant Express.

This is an action-packed read, given that it is only just over 250 pages long. Mann certainly manages to keep the tempo fast and furious as both Veronica Hobbes and Maurice Newbury are both attempting to tackle a terrible threat. Although I enjoyed the excellent action scenes, particularly on the train – I am a tad concerned about a major anomaly. We are told in the blurb that Veronica is close to death – so I actually reread the opening chapter in which she features, and at no time do we get a sense in her viewpoint that she’s anything other than a tad cold and miserable while standing in the pouring rain. While close to death, she happily goes off to get involved in a demanding case with Sir Charles Bainbridge and doesn’t mention feeling slightly unwell at any stage.

While in the ordinary run of things, this issues would be a dealbreaker, they aren’t this time around, simply because I like the world and the characters so much. It doesn’t hurt that this particular adventure is largely set on a train travelling across Europe, so a lot of the action doesn’t impact the wider story arc. The gruesome nature of the infection causing all sorts of havoc presents a real danger to our trusty protagonists – and has Mann has already demonstrated that he isn’t shy of killing off some main characters, I found myself paying real attention to the very dramatic fights.

That said, something clearly occurred that threw a major spanner in the works regarding Mann’s writing. I hope he is able to get back on track to write the next exciting instalment, but if he can’t or doesn’t – that’s okay, too. I do wince sometimes at the angry impatience of some readers while waiting for the next book. Everyone experiences major upsets in their lives – including authors in the middle of writing a popular series. In the meantime this series is recommended for fans of steampunk adventure with a gothic feel.

While I obtained an arc of The Revenant Express from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

Sunday Post – 10th February, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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

Another week has slipped by – this time in a welter of wind and rain. I’ll take that over snow any day, but it has been wet and dreary for a chunk of time, making the drive into Northbrook and back miserable. I can’t quite believe that this week saw the halfway point of this term come and go… Wednesday evening I attended our writing group where the main discussion somehow morphed into various versions of ‘Lilac Wine’ – there were those of us who felt Nina Simone’s version aced it, while others preferred Elkie Brooks and Miley Cyrus – there’s no accounting for taste! On Thursday, I had a good lesson with Tim, who is working towards his Functional Skills Level 2 Reading exam.

On Friday, I met up with writing buddy Mhairi. We had lunch together at Haskins and browsed, when Mhairi spotted some amazing umbrellas on sale – the big old-fashioned kind, with a lovely pattern of a bee on lavender. Given that it was hammering down outside, I treated myself and it easily kept us both dry while we made our way to car. We had a lovely catch-up together, overshadowed by the fact that she’s moving away from the area very soon. She’s promised to come and stay regularly and I hope she does. I’m so sad that she’s going, though obviously I wish her all the luck in the world in her new home.

Last week I read:
Cyanide with Christie – Crime with the Classics series by Katherine Bolger Hyde
Having finished transforming Windy Corner, the grand Victorian mansion she inherited from her great aunt, into a writers’ retreat, widowed literature professor Emily Cavanaugh is ready to receive her first set of guests. But her careful planning is thrown into disarray by the unexpected arrival of outrageous true-crime writer, Cruella Crime, whose unpardonably rude behaviour is causing great offence. As a ferocious ice storm rages outside, the guests entertain one another with a game of charades. But their revelries are brought to a sudden halt by the discovery of a body in one of the guest bedrooms. When it transpires the victim was poisoned, Emily decides to take a leaf out of the book of her favourite detective writer, Agatha Christie, and investigate. But as she pursues her enquiries, it becomes chillingly clear that she herself may have been the intended victim…
This is fun, particularly for those cosy whodunit fans yearning for the nostalgia of some of the old classics. I’ll be reviewing this one in due course.

The Revenant Express – Book 5 of the Newbury and Hobbes series by George Mann

Following their bloody encounter with the Executioner, Sir Maurice Newbury’s assistant Veronica Hobbes is close to death. Desperate to save her life, Newbury and Veronica’s sister Amelia board a sleeper train bound for St. Petersburg, in the hope that Gustav Faberge might have the answer. But there are enemies on board, and Newbury and Amelia will need all their strength and cunning to survive the Revenant Express.
This action-packed sequel to The Executioner’s Heart follows on more or less immediately from the climactic ending of the previous book, so if you haven’t read it then I’d advise that you do so before picking this one up. Review to follow this week.

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 3rd February 2019

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Endgames – Book 12 of the Imagers Portfolio by L.E. Modesitt Jr

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Knife Children – NOVELLA in The Sharing Knife series by Lois McMaster Bujold

Friday Face-Off featuring Tongues of Serpents – Book 5 of the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik

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

Quotations on integrity https://charlesfrenchonwordsreadingandwriting.wordpress.com/2019/02/06/quotations-on-integrity-4/ Given that baldfaced lying is rapidly becoming an acceptable political tool all over the planet, let’s consider those whose expectations were a whole lot higher…

Let’s talk trigger warnings https://thetattooedbookgeek.wordpress.com/2019/02/08/lets-talk-trigger-warnings-bookblogger-bookbloggers-blogger-bloggers-blogpost/ This is an interesting subject for any blogger – those who do and those who don’t…

It’s Been a Wonderful Five Years… https://inesemjphotography.com/2019/02/09/it-has-been-five-wonderful-years/ She’s absolutely right! This enormously talented photographer has been one of my go-to blogs as I find her photos both inspirational and a huge comfort when the world isn’t being fair…

Will We Read On? Or Put the Book Down? Sometimes It’s The Little Things https://writerunboxed.com/2019/02/09/will-we-read-on-or-put-down-the-book-sometimes-its-the-little-things/ I’m always intrigued to discover what makes other readers DNF a book…

And The Big Secret Project Is… Heart of the Story Editorial & Coaching Services! https://saraletourneauwriter.com/2019/02/09/heart-of-the-story-editorial-coaching-services/ Sara has been a writing buddy for a long time, with a great track record of providing detailed advice for writers. She also did a wonderful job as a beta reader for me on one of my manuscripts! I wish her loads of luck with this project.

In the meantime, many thanks for taking the time to comment, like and visit my blog – have a wonderful week!

Friday Faceoff – Here we are, trapped in the amber of the moment. There is no why… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoff

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and the theme this week the theme to feature on any of our covers is steampunk. I’ve selected The Affinity Bridge – Book 1 of the Newbury and Hobbes series by George Mann, a cracking whodunit set in an alternate Victorian London…

 

This edition was produced by Snow Books in 2008 and is my favourite. I love all the detail and the bright colours. It’s beautiful, full of lovely little touches, like the London cityscape, the little steampunk flourishes and that fabulous airship, which is the template for nearly all the other versions of this book’s covers. While I’ll accept that it probably doesn’t stand out when in thumbnail, I’ll forgive that – who wouldn’t want to expand this cover into glorious full size to capture the full effect?

 

Published in April 2010 by Tor Books, this is another attractive, well-designed offering. The airship is now grungier and less shiny, though every bit as eye-catching. I love the border and the attention to detail, again. I just wish there was less chatter across the cover.

 

This edition, published by Titan Books in July 2015, is certainly bright. The airship is still there and this cover provides lots of detail, but in silhouette. I think the overall effect is successful and eye-catching and I’d probably love it more if I hadn’t already given my heart to the Snow Books effort.

 

This edition, produced by Piper in 2011, takes the original design and makes it their own. It is far more stripped back and I think it is extremely effective – I love the background colour and clever use of the clouds to provide a suitably dramatic backdrop for that magnificent airship. The border is also nicely handled and in thumbnail, this one really pops. This is my second favourite, mostly because I just love that colour…

 

This French cover, published in June 2011, takes a completely different approach. This is the foggy London where Jack the Ripper lurks along with other desperate villains and only the likes of Newbury and Hobbes can get justice done… We see the two protagonists featured on the cover. I do like this effort, though not as much as the others. What about you – which is your favourite?

Friday Faceoff – It shuffles through the dry, dusty darkness…

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This week the theme is mummification,, so I’ve chosen The Osiris Ritual – Book 2 of the Newbury and Hobbs seriesby George Mann – see my review here.

 

This gorgeous cover, produced by Snow Books in September 2009, is my favourite. I love the colours, the vivid colouring and beautiful, apt detail. The balance of information against that eye-catching design is perfect – in short this is one of my all-time favourite covers and is certainly the best of this selection.

 

This edition, produced in August 2010 by Tor Books is also a great effort. The giant sphinx and dark, muted colours certainly give a sense of the threat and catch the eye. I also like the title and author fonts, but it does lack the wonderful detail and flair of the previous cover.

 

Published in February 2012 by Piper, this is yet another strong offering, with plenty going on that is particularly applicable to the content. I like the steampunk cogs decorating the frame – enjoyable as well as informative – while the bridge disappearing off into the distant London landscape works well, given what the Osiris ritual is all about.

 

This cover, produced by Titan Books in November 2015, is another effective effort. The gold immediately sings out, drawing the eye and definitely setting it apart on the shelf – and again, I appreciate the icon that lets the reader know this is steampunk. It also sports the Newbury and Hobbes label – appropriate as this detective duo set in a steampunk version of Victorian London now has a solid fan following.

 

This edition was produced by Fahrenheitbooks in November 2014. This is the weakest effort, with a generic image that I don’t think works all that well with the font. Having said that, you would certainly notice it on a bookshelf. Which is your favourite?

Favourite London Spec Fic Tales – Part 2

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There are a number of science fiction and fantasy – mostly fantasy, it has to be said – which are set in London, an amazing city, thick with history and yet still buzzing and vibrant. I have already suggested a number of well-written, quality series that use London as an effective backdrop in Part 1 and here is now the next section of the article, which would have been far too long had I published it in one go.

The Laundry Files by Charles Stross
This is another ongoing series that is a solid favourite – I love the way this long-running series has theatrocityarchivesdeveloped to date.

Bob Howard is a low-level techie working for The Laundry, a super-secret government agency. While his colleagues are out saving the world, Bob’s under a desk restoring lost data. None of them receive any thanks for the jobs they do, but at least a techie doesn’t risk getting shot or eaten in the line of duty. Bob’s world is dull but safe, and that’s the way it should have stayed; but then he went and got Noticed. Now, Bob Howard is up to his neck in spycraft, alternative universes, dimension-hopping nazis, Middle Eastern terrorists, damsels in distress, ancient Lovecraftian horror and the end of the world. Only one thing is certain: it will take more than control-alt-delete to sort this mess out…

The first book in this series is The Atrocity Archives.

 

 

Spellcrackers.com by Suzanne McLeod
thesweetscentofbloogThis is a sparkling series with a fantasy PI who pings off the page. I need to get back and catch up with this series!

My name is Genny Taylor. I work for Spellcrackers.com. It’s a great job, pays the rent, lets me do the thing I’m good at – finding magic and cracking it – and the bonus is it’s run by witches, which stops the vamps from taking a bite out of me. When Mr October, a sexy calendar pin-up vamp, is accused of murdering his girlfriend, an old debt is called in and Genny is forced to help prove his innocence, risking her job and the protection it offers – and threatening to expose her own dark secrets. Searching for the killer plunges Genny deep into the hidden heart of vampire society. It’s not long before she realises that she and Mr October are both unwitting pawns in a centuries-old power struggle between London’s non-human communities . . . and it’s not just her own neck that’s at stake, but the lives of all London’s supernaturals. My advice is to start with the first book The Sweet Scent of Blood.

 

The Bartimaeus Sequence by Jonathan Stroud
Nathaniel is a boy magician-in-training, sold to the government by his birth parents at the age of five theamuletofsamarkandand sent to live as an apprentice to a master. Powerful magicians rule Britain, and its empire, and Nathaniel is told his is the “ultimate sacrifice” for a “noble destiny.” If leaving his parents and erasing his past life isn’t tough enough, Nathaniel’s master, Arthur Underwood, is a cold, condescending, and cruel middle-ranking magician in the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The boy’s only saving grace is the master’s wife, Martha Underwood, who shows him genuine affection that he rewards with fierce devotion. Nathaniel gets along tolerably well over the years in the Underwood household until the summer before his eleventh birthday. Everything changes when he is publicly humiliated by the ruthless magician Simon Lovelace and betrayed by his cowardly master who does not defend him.

Nathaniel vows revenge. In a Faustian fever, he devours magical texts and hones his magic skills, all the while trying to appear subservient to his master. When he musters the strength to summon the 5,000-year-old djinni Bartimaeus to avenge Lovelace by stealing the powerful Amulet of Samarkand, the boy magician plunges into a situation more dangerous and deadly than anything he could ever imagine.
This intelligent, well written trilogy may feature a wise-cracking genie, who is the main protagonist – but it is for older children, as the jaw-dropping climax left me wrung out… The first book is The Amulet of Samarkand – see my review here.

 

The Newbury and Hobbes series by George Mann
theaffinitybridgeThe entertaining steampunk detective series has also grabbed me as I’ve enjoyed the progression of the characters.

Welcome to the bizarre and dangerous world of Victorian London, a city teetering on the edge of revolution. Its people are ushering in a new era of technology, dazzled each day by new inventions. Airships soar in the skies over the city, whilst ground trains rumble through the streets and clockwork automatons are programmed to carry out menial tasks in the offices of lawyers, policemen and journalists. But beneath this shiny veneer of progress lurks a sinister side. For this is also a world where ghostly policemen haunt the fog-laden alleyways of Whitechapel, where cadavers can rise from the dead and where Sir Maurice Newbury, Gentleman Investigator for the Crown, works tirelessly to protect the Empire from her foes.

When an airship crashes in mysterious circumstances, Sir Maurice and his recently appointed assistant Miss Veronica Hobbes are called in to investigate. Meanwhile, Scotland Yard is baffled by a spate of grisly murders and a terrifying plague is ravaging the slums of the city.

The first book in the series is The Affinity Bridge.

 

The Skyscraper Throne series by Tom Pollock
This gritty, urban fantasy has London singing off the pages as a magical personification that I found thecity'ssonenthralling.
Running from her traitorous best friend and her estranged father, graffiti artist Beth Bradley is looking for sanctuary. What she finds is Urchin, the ragged and cocky crown prince of London’s mystical underworld. Urchin opens Beth’s eyes to the city she’s never truly seen-where vast spiders crawl telephone wires seeking voices to steal, railwraiths escape their tethers, and statues conceal an ancient priesthood robed in bronze. But it all teeters on the brink of destruction. Amid rumors that Urchin’s goddess mother will soon return from her 15-year exile, Reach, a malign god of urban decay, wants the young prince dead. Helping Urchin raise an alleyway army to reclaim his skyscraper throne, Beth soon forgets her old life. But when her best friend is captured, Beth must choose between this wondrous existence and the life she left behind.

The first book in the series is The City’s Son – see my review here.

 

 

The Magnificent Devices series by Shelley Adina
magnificentdevicesThis is a steampunk, alternate history romp, featuring a feisty protagonist – and if you think it starts off reading like a typical period romance, do keep reading because it suddenly turns into something so much more intriguing…

London, 1889. Victoria is Queen. Charles Darwin’s son is Prime Minister. And steam is the power that runs the world. At 17, Claire Trevelyan, daughter of Viscount St. Ives, was expected to do nothing more than pour an elegant cup of tea, sew a fine seam, and catch a rich husband. Unfortunately, Claire’s talents lie not in the ballroom, but in the chemistry lab, where things have a regrettable habit of blowing up. The first book in the series is Magnificent Devices – see my review here.

 

 

 

The Night’s Masque series by Anne Lyle
This is an historical genre mash-up, with a dash of science fiction thrown into the alternate world, whichalchemistofsouls gives an intriguing backdrop to the storyline.

When Tudor explorers returned from the New World, they brought back a name out of half-forgotten Viking legend: skraylings. Red-sailed ships followed in the explorers’ wake, bringing Native American goods–and a skrayling ambassador–to London. But what do these seemingly magical beings really want in Elizabeth I’s capital? Mal Catlyn, a down-at-heel swordsman, is seconded to the ambassador’s bodyguard, but assassination attempts are the least of his problems. What he learns about the skraylings and their unholy powers could cost England her new ally–and Mal his soul.

The first book in this entertaining series is The Alchemist of Souls – see my review here.

 

 

Triumff , Her Majesty’s Hero by Dan Abnett
triumffThis is standalone genre mash-up swashbuckler has a premise that doesn’t bear too much close examination – but I found I didn’t really care, because it’s such fun…
Sir Rupert Triumff. Adventurer. Fighter. Drinker. Saviour? Triumff is a ribald historical fantasy set in a warped clockwork-powered version of our present day. A new Elizabethan age, not of Elizabeth II but in the style of the original Virgin Queen. Throughout its rollicking pages, Sir Rupert Triumff drinks, dines and duels his way into a new Brass Age of Exploration and Adventure. Read my review here.

Weekly Wrap-Up – 1st May

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Weekly Wrapup

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

It’s been a really busy week. My course at Northbrook is now settling down, so the flurry of admin will now ease up, thankfully. I was also rushing around, getting organised in order to zip off for a few days to stay with my mother. It’s always lovely going to visit her, but the big bonus this time around is that my sister is over on one of her rare visits from the south of France, where she lives. We had a fantastic few days catching up together and nipping off to the shops. I needed to arrive back today in order to give Himself a lift to work. But all the packing (which I loathe!) was absolutely worth it!

I’ve read three books this week:
The Snare – Book 1 of Star Wars Adventures in Wild Space by Cavan Scottthesnare
This is a children’s book that Oscar chose for Book Week, attracted by the fact it is set in the Star Wars world, but features two children whose parents have fallen foul of the Empire. We zipped through it last week-end when he came to stay, as he was desperate to discover what happened next. I shall be reviewing it in due course.

 

 

 

 

A Rruralaffairural Affair by Catherine Alliott
This contemporary romance was a complete change of pace for me – and not an entirely successful one, so I will not be reviewing it. I thoroughly enjoyed the opening pages and, indeed, the first two-thirds was engrossing and took off in all sorts of unexpected directions. Then I realised who was going to end up with whom (it is, after all, a romance) and read on, hoping I was mistaken and I wasn’t. Not the author’s fault that I found the ending a tad flat – more mine for imagining these days that I’d enjoy a straight romance.

 

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Queen of Hearts – Book 1 of the Queen of Hearts Saga by Colleen Oakes
This dystopian, YA take on Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland is an intriguing, tension-filled read, which is due to be published later this week. So, I’ll be posting my review in a handful of days.

 

 

 

sjhigbeefinalWhile away, I’ve been reading through my own ebook Running Out of Space on the Kindle, checking the formatting and looking out for any more mistakes. It’s been really helpful looking at the text in another format and I’ve found a handful of niggling issues which I’m pleased to be able to fix before publication.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My posts last week:
Weekly Wrap-Up – 24th April

* NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Bright Blaze of Magic – Book 3 of the Black Blade series by Jennifer Estep

Teaser Tuesday – Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes

* NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* The Star-Touched Queen – by Roshani Chokshi

Review of The Executioner’s Heart – Book 4 of Newbury and Hobbes Investigations by George Mann

Friday Faceoff – Like One, That on a Lonesome Road featuring Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris

Obviously being away has impacted on my blogging output and reading – but I’m hoping to catch up this week. The weather this week has slid into manic mode, with most days swinging from bright sunshine through to sudden and very cold flurries of hail, sleet and actual snow. Happy May Day everyone and many thanks for reading my blogs – and an especial Spring thank you for those of you who have gone to the trouble of commenting. Have a great week everyone, and let’s hope that sometime soon, we get to have the sunshine without the snow showers…

Review of The Executioner’s Heart – Book 4 of the Newbury and Hobbes Investigations by George Mann

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This is the fourth full-length novel in this entertaining series featuring the pair of Victorian sleuths battling all manner of evil-doers, with gothic overtones and all manner of intriguing steam-powered contraptions. I have really enjoyed the books up to now – see my reviews of The Osiris Ritual and The Immorality Engine – so will I enjoy this latest instalment?

theexecutionersheartWhen Charles Bainbridge, Chief Inspector of Scotland Yard, is called to the scene of the third murder in quick succession where the victim’s chest has been cracked open and their heart torn out, he sends for supernatural specialist Sir Maurice Newbury and his determined assistant, Miss Veronica Hobbes. The two detectives discover that the killings may be the work of a mercenary known as the Executioner. French, uncannily beautiful, her flesh covered in tattoos and inlaid with precious metals, the Executioner is famed throughout Europe. But her heart is damaged, leaving her an emotionless shell, inexplicably driven to collect her victims’ hearts as trophies.

This book immediately plunges us into a tension-filled scene where we witness a terrible event overtaking one of the main protagonists – and then the narrative timeline jumps backwards to the events leading up to it… We regularly see this device in the CSI franchise, but it occurs less often in books. It certainly works here. The character in questions happens to be my favourite, so I was gripped by the need to discover exactly what went on and ensure that this major character emerges from her terrible experience unscathed.

I also liked the fact that we were taken into the world of this shadowy assailant, learning of her tragic past and how she turned into this merciless, brutal killer. It is always a bonus when the main antagonist has a convincing backstory which gives us an insight as to how she becomes a heartless murderer.

Alongside this ongoing investigation, is the ongoing tension from the overarching narrative arc and the continuing shockwaves from the shocking denouement from the previous book, The Immorality Engine. All series deserve to be read in the correct order, and while you could crash into the middle of this one (for once, something I didn’t do…) because of the characters’ journey and development, it really pays to read these in sequence.

I enjoy this world – steampunk at its best can be great fun, and Mann has Queen Victoria hooked up to a steam-powered life support machine, growing ever more paranoid and lethal. As those tasked with keeping law and order in her capital city, Newbury and Hobbes are unavoidably caught up in her machinations. But the newly emerging Secret Service is also causing concern – are they a nest of traitors, colluding with the German agents plotting for the Kaiser to overthrow Victoria? She certainly thinks so.

This could all collapse into a real mess if not handled with skill. It doesn’t. The climax is every bit as shocking as the explosive finish to The Immorality Engine and leaves the book on something of a cliffhanger. I’m not going to say more, but I’m certainly looking forward to the next instalment The Revenant Express, due out next year.

9/10

Weekly Wrap-Up – 24th April

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Weekly Wrapup

This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written. It’s been a good week – a VERY good week… First piece of excellent news was that I was graded an Outstanding for my latest lesson observation at Northbrook College. I enjoy teaching and have a lovely group of students, so it’s gratifying to have such positive feedback.

The next slice of excitement came in the form of an email from Darren Pulsford, editor of the upcoming anthology Eve of War due to be published on 19th June by Fox Spirit. ‘Miranda’s Tempest’ by yours truly is the first story in the running order. To be honest, I’d sort of forgotten about it – making it a lovely surprise!

I’ve read four books this week:

Date Night on Union Station – Book 1 of the EarthCent Ambassador by E.M. Fonerdatenight
I needed something lighter in tone after a fairly hefty apocalyptic sci fi adventure – and this was Himself’s suggestion, which, as ever, was on the button. It is more of a comedy of manners than the gritted battle for survival we are more used to seeing on space stations brimful of alien races and gnarly tech. I shall be reviewing it in due course.

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Square Peg by Vivienne Tuffnell
I got know Viv’s writing through her accomplished blog Zen and the Art of Tightrope Walking and bought her book Away With the Fairies last year. I wanted to touch base with the contemporary world and Himself was nagging me to read this prequel, so I did. It’s another original, memorable read. No one writes quite like Viv and she deserves to be far more widely read. Another book I’ll be reviewing soon.

 

Outriders – Book 1 of the Outriders series by Jay Poseyoutriders
This military science fiction adventure starts with a bang and rolls forward as we get to see events spool forward in the viewpoint of Lincoln, the Outrider’s new commander. And the Outriders are an elite black ops team in a world teetering on the edge of war with Mars… This NetGalley arc is due to be published at the beginning of May and I was very pleased to be in at the start of what I think is going to be a very successful series, if the first book is anything to go by.

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The Executioner’s Heart – Book 4 of the Newbury and Hobbes Investigations series by George Mann
This latest steampunk whodunit has been loitering on by TBR pile for far too long – and as I’m learning to interleave my NetGalley arcs amongst the rest of the books piled up waiting for my attention – it suddenly jumped up and down and demanded to be read. Quite right too. It’s much too good to be ignored – and the ending was a major shock, leaving me agog to know what happens next.

 

 

 

My posts last week:
Weekly Wrap-Up – 17th April
Review of The Rhesus Chart – Book 5 of The Laundry Files by Charles Stross
Teaser Tuesday – Outriders by Jay Posey
Review of Space Hostages – Book 2 of the Mars Evacuees series by Sophia McDougall
Books I Wished I’d Reviewed
Friday Faceoff – Dead Men Tell No Tales featuring Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
The Spring Book Tag

I had planned to spend the week-end out in the garden, tackling all those early weeks and tidying up after the winter, but the grandchildren are staying, so inevitably the weather has turned cold. I only garden when it’s nice, so we’re going to snuggle down in front of the fire, read books together and watch some daft film together. Once more, thank you for taking the time out of your busy life to read my reviews and articles and have a great week.

Review of Ghosts of Manhattan by George Mann

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I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the successful Newbury and Hobbes series set in a version of Victorian London – see my reviews of The Immorality Engine here and The Osiris Ritual here. All very anarchic and entertaining stuff with plenty of action and the alternate, cool touches that defines steampunk. Would I enjoy this new genre mash-up series?

ghostsofmanhattan1926. New York City. It’s the Roaring Twenties but not as history remembers it. Coal-powered cars line the streets, while zeppelins and biplanes patrol the skies. The US is locked in a bitter cold war with a British Empire that still covers half the globe and the Lost Generation is drinking away the nightmares of the trenches. In Manhattan, a run-down police force is losing the fight against a tide of powerful mobsters and against one in particular: The Roman. His henchmen – not all of them human – with the streets and the body count is rising. It’s time in need of a hero. It’s a time in need of THE GHOST.

As you can immediately see from the blurb, steampunk has shifted from its more usual Victorian timescape, which was really successful in my opinion. There are some significant problems with the Victorian era – not least that many of the ingrained attitudes towards anyone not white, male and upper middle-class jar with modern tastes. Not that I’m holding up the 1920’s as any ideal of broad-mindedness – but attitudes and behaviour had been modulated by the Great War. Did Mann take account of that huge event? Absolutely. I have read books set in the 1920’s that completely ignore the Great War, while Mann effectively depicts the damage wrought upon his protagonist, who is still haunted by the carnage experienced in the trenches.

There is a gothic-noir feel to this book that puts me in mind of the Batman films. Not that I have a particular problem with that – Mann knows how to tell an entertaining tale. His characters are reasonably convincing and I’m guessing that there are untold layers about the Ghost we will uncover in subsequent books.

The baddies are satisfyingly nasty – in fact my chief grizzle is that I would have liked to learn more about The Roman who appeared to have really fascinating backstory. I will be looking out for the next in the series – I generally enjoy Mann’s work and I’d like to see where he takes the Ghost in future instalments.
7/10

Review of The Immorality Engine – A Newbury & Hobbes Investigation by George Mann

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This book is the third full length novel in this steampunk adventure series set squarely in Victorian times.  Sir Maurice Newbury and his feisty sidekick Veronica Hobbes are called on to investigate a wave of crimes identical to committed by a murderer who the police have just found dead. Their enquiries lead them to the Bastion Society, and personal physician to Queen Victoria, Dr Lucius Fabian. Why is he so interested in Veronica’s sister, Amelia, and can Newbury and Veronica help free her from a terrible fate as a slave to the Empire?

immoralityengineI’ve enjoyed this series so far – but for my money, this is the book where all the ingredients mix together to provide a really gripping story with some horrific overtones. And the steampunk adventure stops being some slightly daft version of Sherlock Holmes and hits its stride.

Maurice Newbury is fighting his own demons – and the consequences of his experimentation bite deep into his personal life and create major strains in his partnership with Veronica Hobbes. Who has major problems of her own, given her concern and guilt about her sister’s fate… These internal conflicts add extra depth to these two characters, whose rather breezy attitude to date gave this series a certain amount of charm – but also allowed us to dismiss the shenanigans going on in Mann’s version of Victorian England as an amusing pastiche of the darker reality. It was also enjoyable to see that one of the characters who has regularly turned up as a regular bit player in the earlier books, Inspector Bainbridge, has been given a far larger slice of the action this time around – to the extent that we actually see the action through his viewpoint on several occasions.

There is a sombre feel to this novel that gives it extra edge, right from the beginning, with the bleak funeral scene that wouldn’t look out of place in a Dickens novel. Queen Victoria is something of a shock – the terrifying monster lurking in the shadows and kept alive by her steam-driven chair is a world away from the white haired matron we are used to seeing adorning various history books and stamps.

What hasn’t changed, is the speed at which the narrative whisks along. Mann is adept at interleaving the necessary scene setting with the various actions scenes that regularly punctuate this engrossing book. While the previous steampunk adventures have always been entertaining – which was why I made a point of picking up this book – this time the narrative braids all the various sub-plots into a really satisfying climax that contributed to the explosive denouement – literally. The fall-out from all the action is equally intriguing and the final hook has left me determined to track down the sequel, The Affinity Bridge. Where I enjoyed the previous books, this one is my favourite steampunk novel to date – and I’m very much hoping that the next book will deliver yet more steam-driven goings on with a same calibre.
10/10