Tag Archives: Juliet McKenna

My Top Ten Favourite Reads of 2018 So Far… #Brainfluffbookblog

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Now that we are more than halfway through 2018, what are my standout reads? So far this year, I’ve read 73 books and in no particular order, my top 10 favourites of the year so far are:-

The Stone Sky – Book 3 of The Broken Earth trilogy by N.K. Jemisin
This whole series blew me away. The extraordinary viewpoint and the worldbuilding that takes a science fiction premise and pushes it right to the edge. It has an epic fantasy feel with a strong family dynamic and remarkable characters – and perhaps most important, concluded this series with sufficient drama and conviction.

 

 

The Hyperspace Trap by Christopher G. Nuttall
This space opera adventure, set on an intergalactic cruise-ship liner, was an unusual and riveting setting for this alien encounter. I liked the fact that the protagonists came from both the crew and passengers and enjoyed the growing tension as things slid away into a major emergency.

 

 

Blunt Force Magic by Lawrence Davis
I loved this one. A half-trained apprentice with loads of ability and no finesse finds himself having to stand against formidable antagonists. The chippy narrator and gritty take on this well-trodden path made this a memorably enjoyable read.

 

 

The Bitter Twins – Book 2 of The Winnowing Flame trilogy by Jen Williams
I’ve been a fan of Williams’ vibrant, energetic prose since I picked up The Copper Promise, but this one is an awesome braiding of both science fiction and fantasy. No mid-book slump here!

 

 

 

The Cold Between – Book 1 of the Central Corps novels by Elizabeth Bonesteel
This space opera focuses on the characters with ferocious intensity and we get a ringside seat as layered, plausible people grapple with their own lives in amongst the stars. Needless to say, there is also politics, greed and the need for revenge and love blended to make this one unputdownable once I’d started.

 

 

The Green Man’s Heir by Juliet McKenna
This is one of the reading highlights of the year so far. Set in England and steeped in the myths and folklore of this ancient land, the story follows the fortunes of a half-dryad man trying to trace his lineage. Needless to say, he is pitchforked into the middle of something dangerous and old…

 

 

 

Head On – Book 2 of the Lock In series by John Scalzi
I loved the first book in this futuristic crime series, Lock In, where victims of a terrible illness leaving them completely paralysed are able to upload their consciousness into robotic bodies. Our protagonist is now working for the police, investigating the murder of a sporting star, who plays a savage version of American football. Mayhem and action all the way…

 

 

 

Before Mars – Book 3 of the Planetfall series by Emma Newman
I’ve loved every one of these stories – and this one charting the fortunes of a woman newly arrived on a Martian outpost is another riveting read. It’s rare that motherhood is examined with any depth in science fiction stories – yet the protagonist has left a baby behind and is grappling with feelings of guilt and inadequacy. There is a terrible twist that those who have read the previous two books are waiting for…

 

Child I by Steve Tasane
You won’t have read anything quite like this one. The cover alone tells you it is something different – and yet I plunged into it, thinking it was set on a near-future, post-apocalyptic Earth. I was devastated to learn it is set right now and based on the testimonies of children alive today…

 

 

 

All Systems Red – Book 1 of the Murderbot Diaries novella series by Martha Wells
Hard enough to write a well-paced novella – writing convincingly as a security robot assigned to keep scientific teams out of harm is far more difficult. Yet Wells triumphantly pulls it off. A marvellous read – I just wish I could afford to read the rest of the series…

 

 

There were other near misses it hurts to omit – Isha Crowe’s quirky Gwithyas: Door to the Void, L.E. Modesitt’s Outcasts of Order and Children of the Shaman by Jessica Rydill to name but three. What about you – what are your favourite reads of the year, so far?

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*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of INDIE Ebook The Green Man’s Heir by Juliet McKenna

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I’m a solid fan of this author’s work – see my review of The Hadrumal Crisis – and have always enjoyed the politically aware worldbuilding and sharp characterisation of her epic fantasy novels, all set in the same world. This one, however, is a complete break from her former body of work. This is, in effect, a very Brit take on the urban fantasy sub-genre, where the supernatural world interacts with the human version in trying to get to the bottom of a crime. But instead of grimy city streets, the setting is an English stately home and instead of the usual fare of vampires and werewolves, we have dryads, boggats and wyrms…

A hundred years ago, a man with a secret could travel a few hundred miles and give himself a new name and life story. No one would be any the wiser, as long as he didn’t give anyone a reason to start asking questions. These days, that’s not so easy, with everyone on social media, and CCTV on every street corner. So Daniel Mackmain keeps his head down and keeps himself to himself. But now a girl has been murdered and the Derbyshire police are taking a closer look at a loner who travels from place to place, picking up work as he goes. Worse, Dan realises the murder involves the hidden world he was born into. When no one else can see the truth, who will see justice done?

A modern fantasy rooted in the ancient myths and folklore of the British Isles.

And she has absolutely nailed it. This is a complete and utter joy. I loved the character of Daniel, part-dryad, who is desperate to meet up with others in his situation and when he finally tracks down someone who can help – it doesn’t end well… He is a sympathetic protagonist with a few chips on his shoulder – not surprising given his heritage and how it has caused him problems. He is tall, well-built and innately attracts women. While that might sound like dream attributes, in reality it has caused him a lot of problems with annoyed boyfriends and brought unwelcome attention from the police, when such incidents turn into brawls.

I love the setting of a country district – McKenna has got the social faultlines running through modern England spot on. While the beautiful setting, juxtaposed with the grim threat reaching back into history and now posing a possibility of creating havoc all over again, works beautifully. This one grabbed me and wouldn’t let me go until I put it down in the wee small hours, drained and slightly giddy.

The book hangover I’ve had since has been painful, because despite reading perfectly enjoyable, well written adventures, they haven’t been this world, with these characters. I want them back. I want more. And I’m hoping, fervently, that McKenna has plans to make this a series, because I’m already addicted.

Recommended for fans of urban fantasy and murder stories with a very cool paranormal twist.
10/10

Sunday Post – 1st April, 2018

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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.

Thank you so much for all your kind good wishes for my sister’s speedy recovery. She is staying with us over the Easter week-end and feeling a lot better. We are hoping the weather will improve tomorrow so we can have a wander around Highdown Gardens and enjoy the fabulous display of spring flowers there.

And here we are – into April with the Spring term’s Creative Writing class behind us, apart from the Snow Day catchup session which will be held at the end of the Easter break… When did that happen? It seems that Christmas was only the day before yesterday! I have had a couple of rather lazy days with lie-ins before I have to get cracking on next term’s course and winding up the admin from last term, in addition to preparing for Tim’s upcoming exams. In the meantime, have a lovely Spring break.

This week I have read:

The Children of the Shaman – Book 1 of the Children of the Shaman series by Jessica Rydill

When their aunt is taken ill, thirteen-year old Annat and her brother are sent from their small coastal town to live with their unknown father. Like Annat, Yuda is a Shaman; a Wanderer with magical powers, able to enter other worlds. As Annat learns more about her powers, the children join their father on a remarkable train journey to the frozen north and find a land of mystery and intrigue, threatened by dark forces and beset by senseless murders that have halted construction of a new tunnel.
Despite the protagonist being a child, this isn’t a children’s read or even a YA book. There is plenty of adventure with a really interesting magic system and a nuanced, layered examination of family relationships. I shall be reviewing this one in due course.

 

Meet Me in the Strange by Leander Watts

Davi tries to help a new friend, Anna Z, escape a cruel and controlling brother, and the teens end up running away to follow the tour of their rock idol, the otherworldly Django Conn. The story is set in a weird and wonderful retro-futuristic city of glam-girls and glister-boys and a strange phenomenon that Anna Z calls the “Alien Drift.”
This YA offering is an extraordinary read – the worldbuilding and futuristic vibe reverberates through the punchy, inventive writing. Watt manages to evoke the stage when the youngsters define themselves through the music they hear – and then puts a paranormal twist on that…

 

The Green Man’s Heir by Juliet McKenna
A hundred years ago, a man with a secret could travel a few hundred miles and give himself a new name and life story. No one would be any the wiser, as long as he didn’t give anyone a reason to start asking questions. These days, that’s not so easy, with everyone on social media, and CCTV on every street corner. So Daniel Mackmain keeps his head down and keeps himself to himself.

But now a girl has been murdered and the Derbyshire police are taking a closer look at a loner who travels from place to place, picking up work as he goes. Worse, Dan realises the murder involves the hidden world he was born into. When no one else can see the truth, who will see justice done?

A modern fantasy rooted in the ancient myths and folklore of the British Isles.
This is a delight. An unusual urban fantasy which doesn’t feature werewolves or vampires – the supernatural creatures that people this engrossing read are dryads, boggats and shucks. I love how McKenna has woven the old folk tales that cris-cross this small island into her story. It was impossible to put down until I’d finished it.

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 25th March 2018

Teaser Tuesday featuring Children of the Shaman – Book 1 of the Children of the Shaman series by Jessica Rydill

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring The Ashes of London by Andrew Taylor

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Burn Bright – Book 5 of Alpha and Omega series by Patricia Briggs

Friday Face-off – You can’t sow an apple seed and expect an avocado tree… featuring The Seeds of Time by John Wyndham

Review of Queen of Chaos – Book 3 of the Sequoyah trilogy by Sabrina Chase

 

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

The First Ever Poet in the World: The Woman Writer, Enheduanna https://interestingliterature.com/2018/03/30/the-first-ever-poet-in-the-world-the-woman-writer-enheduanna/ This is a fascinating article which is worth reading.

The Cartography of the Solar System – Mars http://earthianhivemind.net/2018/03/30/cartography-solar-system-mars/ Steph once more has pulled together yet another jaw-dropping article showing the latest maps of our neighbouring planet…

#Author #Interviews: #writer Peadar Ó Guilín discusses setting & #pointofview in #writing. Thanks, @TheCallYA https://jeanleesworld.com/2018/03/29/author-interviews-writer-peadar-o-guilin-discusses-setting-pointofview-in-writing-thanks-thecallya/ This fascinating interview gives an insight into the decisions that a writer has to make – and what this particular master wordsmith takes into account when making those decisions.

Discussion Post: Who Are You? Finding Your Voice as a Blogger https://thebookishlibra.com/2018/03/29/discussion-post-who-are-you-finding-your-voice-as-a-blogger/ This is a really good piece of advice for bloggers starting out and wondering how to appear to their audience.

5 New Poetry Collections to Watch Out For https://librarystaffpicks.wordpress.com/2018/03/28/5-new-poetry-collections-to-watch-out-for-2/ Another helpful and interesting post from this great library-based blog.

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

Eve of War is unleashed…

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I’ve copied this announcement from Fox Spirit Books. For obvious reasons I’m not reviewing this particular anthology – but I would just add that I’ve had the opportunity to read through all the stories. And my mate Mhairi has done it again:).

You may remember BFS shortlister Tales of Eve where Mhairi Simpson collected fantastic tales of women seeking their perfect partner in life and the consequences of the search. Well now we see Eve’s daughters, fierce and defiant stepping out to battle.

Edited by Mhairi Simpson, who once again pulled in a great group of authors and Darren Pulsford who curated them into the anthology, we bring you Eve of War.

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Cover art and layout by Vincent Holland-Keen

Sharp of mind and instinct; with poise and grace and power – Eve’s Daughters are a match for any opponent. Whether seeking out a worthy test or assailed by brave (but foolish) foes, she is determined and cunning, and will not fail.

Here are fifteen tales from across the ages; full of prowess both martial and magical, from an array of unique voices.

Contents:

Miranda’s Tempest by S.J. Higbee
The Devil’s Spoke by K.T. Davies
Himura the God Killer by Andrew Reid
The Bind that Tie by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Et Mortuum Esse Audivit by Alasdair Stuart
Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick by Juliet McKenna
A Veil of Blades by R.J. Davnall
In Amber by Rob Haines
Skating Away by Francis Knight
Ballad of Sighne by Rahne Sinclair
The Crossing by Paul Weimer
Lucille by Alec McQuay
Born by G Clark Hellery
Repo by Ren Warom
One Sssingular Sssenssation by Chloe Yates

Fantasycon 2012 – My Highlights

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It’s a whole year since I first dipped my big toe into the Conference scene – starting with last year’s Fantasycon held at the Royal royal_albion_1Albion Hotel in Brighton. It turned out to be my favourite – both Bristolcon and Eastercon were wonderful, but for my money Fantasycon is the one for a bibliophile, with its heavy emphasis on books, writing and authors. So, a year later would I still feel the same way?

This year I brought my husband along. John is also a speculative fiction fan, so I knew he wouldn’t be moodily mooching along at my side, wishing he were elsewhere. Have to say, the Royal Albion Hotel is also a firm favourite. Yes… I know the checking in procedure is a long-winded nightmare; that the subterranean rooms make a sauna feel chilly; that the whole place – frankly – has seen better days. But on a sunny day, the light streams through the huge sash windows in the Regency lounge and the view out to the pier and the sea is just fab. And while it isn’t the last word in efficiency, the staff are invariably friendly.

STANDOUT MOMENTS
Meeting up with friends I only get to see at conventions – like Mhairi Simpson, Justin Newland, Roy Gray and Susan Bartholomew is one of the main joys of coming to these events – as well as meeting new folks like Lynne Stephens, who managed to combine Fantasycon with a business trip from the US. Talking about science fiction and fantasy books to people who actually know the authors you’re on about is very empowering.

alchemistofsoulsI’d already started reading Janet Edward’s science fiction YA book, Earthgirl, before arriving at the hotel, but found it absolutely compelling – so found the time to finish it AND discuss it with Janet, which was great… I’ll be writing a full review of it in due course.

Another book I picked up while at the Con that I managed to complete, was Kim Curran’s Shift – another enjoyable read. And then started in on Anne Lyle’s historical fantasy The Alchemist of Souls, another thoroughly quality book, which I acquired while here. And one I will also be reviewing…

I bumped into Jaine Fenn (literally!) while bopping in the disco, author of the wonderful Hidden Empire series – and she asked me to do a review of Downside Girls, her new short fiction book where the stories are all related to the characters in Principles of Angels. Of course, I said YES PLEASE.downsidegirls

The Open Mic Poetry Event – I went along to support Susan – and had a really enjoyable time. The poems covered a wide range of subjects and were generally of an impressively high standard. Roy Gray actually allowed me to read one his poems – though I was kicking my stupidity in not bringing some of my own stuff. My highlight was the wonderful Tina Rath, who actually knew her work well enough to perform it – and her poetry is a superbly creepy and funny.

I attended a fair number of panels – although the heat in the Fitzherbert Room was something else – and I think it’s a testament to the endurance and professionalism of all the panel members that by the end of a sweltering hour, they were still speaking and thinking coherently, while I was just plain melting…

220px-Juliet_E_McKennaKeeping It Real – This, for me, was the outstanding panel of those I managed to attend. Juliet McKenna is always excellent – intelligent and amusing. Brent Weeks proved to be a confident and adroit Moderator, while Adrian Tchaikovsky and Jasper Kent both were able to speak with the authority of experienced, established authors and although Benedict Jacka was clearly nervous, he also had some interesting insights. I could have happily sat and listened to these five authors speak for the rest of the morning.

The Quiz – Just like last year, this was insanely difficult. And I contributed absolutely nothing to my team, which actually did well, thanks to the likes of Amanda Rutter and Anne Lyle… However, watching Sarah Pinborough and Joe Abercrombie try and keep control of the proceedings was hilarious.

 

Brent Weeks’ Reading – He not only endured the heat of Room 132, he overcame it to perform his reading in a tour de force that brent-weeks-credit-travis-johnson-photographyhad his fans all groaning aloud by the end of the session, as his protagonist died in a hail of bullets. It was on the edge of the seat stuff – before he confessed that particular scene wouldn’t be making it into his latest book. Probably…

The Editorial Process – This Masterclass by Gillian Redfearn of Gollancz was excellent. She discussed the common faults authors make and how we can correct them, before moving onto to explaining how she approaches an author’s work, and the stages a manuscript goes through when being edited by a publishing house.

willhillHow To Write and Sell a YA Novel – Another high point. Will Hill was informative and very generous with his wealth of experience without being remotely patronising. As someone who is working on my first YA book, I found his advice invaluable – I think the Conference was worth it just for this particular session…

The Disco – This was a blast – I missed last year’s effort. Everyone was bopping around for all they were worth. And then, of course, there was that dance-off…

It’s always sad when feelings get trampled (actually, it was a minor miracle that no one ended up being squished underfoot when Joe Abercrombie and Tom Pollock went head to head…) Have to say, it was THE highlight of my Conference. Did the right man win? Anyone who has visited Joe’s blog recently will know his feelings on the subject. I bought him a drink the bar the following morning, when his devastation was apparent.  All I can say, is that if there was any kind of fix, I wasn’t aware of it. No doubt the inevitable Enquiry into the matter will produce a Report in Due Course. In the meantime – keep dancing, Joe…

My book addiction kicked in bigtime. John and I staggered onto the train home with 28 additional books in our luggage – which added to the 31 already stacked by my bedside means that my 2 year old grandson is now in imminent danger of being buried by a bookslide every time he scrambles off our bed.

And now that I’ve been back from Fantasycon 2012 for almost a week, my memories of the whole conference are backlit with the warm friendliness of everyone I encountered. A big thank you to everyone who worked so hard to make it possible – it was great!