Tag Archives: literary science fiction

Friday Faceoff – Clouds in my coffee… #Brainfluffbookblog

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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 subject this week featuring on any of our covers is CLOUDS. I’ve selected Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, which is one of the most amazing books I’ve ever read…

 

This edition was produced by Random House in August 2004. They do have my sympathy – trying to get a sense of this remarkable book on the cover must have been an almighty problem. They have gone for the prosaic, opting to provide six cloudscapes, presumably to represent the six viewpoints that feature within the narrative. The trouble is that the overall effect ends up looking like a book about the weather. That impression isn’t relieved by the red textbox featuring the title, which simply looks like a weather warning when the cover is in thumbnail.

 

Published in February 2005 by Sceptre, this cover is far more effective. The vibrant blue is both beautiful against the deep crimson cover and gives a sense of the extraordinary nature of the story. I love the treatment of the title font, too.

 

This Spanish edition, published by Duomo in 2012, once again falls back on the idea of the cloudscape, this time adding a ship to presumably denote the voyage of one of the protagonists. While I think it is a really cool idea, it is completely spoilt by chopping the lovely image in half and presenting the title and author in the most boring textbox on the planet. The two sad efforts at clouds plonked in there by someone who must have winced at all that white, aren’t sufficient to ease the visual tedium.

 

This edition, produced by Sceptre in 2014, is far more satisfactory. This time we have clouds, along with paper and ink, denoting one of the themes in the book – the fragility of historical records. I think this cover has caught the sense of the book really effectively and is my favourite.

 

This edition, published in January 2004 by Hodder & Stoughton, is just beautiful. I love the vibrancy – once again, it’s a surprise to see just how changes in colour can impact the overall design. My niggle is that the title simply doesn’t sufficiently stand out – and because of that, this week it is a tie. I cannot decide between this offering and the previous one. What do you think? Do you agree with me?

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#Sunday Post – 15th July, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog

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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.

This has been a busy week. On Tuesday, I completed my Poetry Workshop short course, which was a real success despite the sweltering conditions. It was such a treat being able to teach specifically for the poets and as ever, I was blessed with a class full of enthusiastic, engaged writers eager to have a go. On Wednesday I resumed my Pilates and Fitstep class and realised just how very unfit I have become on Thursday when I staggered out of bed aching in places I didn’t know I had muscles. On Thursday evening, I attended West Sussex Writers for an excellent talk and workshop on the craft of short story writing given by Juliet West and Claire Fuller. It was so nice to to catch up with other club members as I haven’t been able to attend for a few months.

On Friday, I took my sister with me when visiting my daughter and newest granddaughter. What a difference a week makes… Baby Eliza, now nearly a fortnight old, is clearly thriving as she was trying to focus on us. It was lovely finally to have a few unhurried cuddles and get to know her. This weekend we are having the grandchildren, so I did the school run and brought them home. After the long, hot journey, we went to the beach as the sun was setting, walked along the damp sand and cooled down, ready for bed. On Saturday we went shopping, after all, pocket money needs to be spent…

And this Sunday is a very special day. It’s the day the film premiere of Hoodwinked Three: This Time It’s Personal, which Tim wrote and starred in as a time-travelling Robin Hood and we spent a chunk of last year writing, editing and filming as part of his studies. I am really looking forward to meeting up with the delightful youngsters that made up the cast, again and watching the film on a large screen.

This week I have read:

Prime Meridian by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Amelia dreams of Mars. The Mars of the movies and the imagination, an endless bastion of opportunities for a colonist with some guts. But she’s trapped in Mexico City, enduring the drudgery of an unkind metropolis, working as a rent-a-friend, selling her blood to old folks with money who hope to rejuvenate themselves with it, enacting a fractured love story. And yet there’s Mars, at the edge of the silver screen, of life. It awaits her.
This near-future novella is riveting examination of a bright, ambitious woman trapped in a dead-end existence and battling for a way out. I found it an engrossing, memorable read.

Fawkes by Nadine Brandes
Keepers think the Igniters caused the plague. Igniters think the Keepers did. But all Thomas knows is that the Stone Plague infecting his eye is spreading. And if he doesn’t do something soon, he’ll be a lifeless statue. So when his Keeper father, Guy Fawkes, invites him to join the Gunpowder Plot—claiming it will put an end to the plague—Thomas is in.
The colour magic and spread of the stone plague adds an intriguing twist to this turbulent time in history. I really liked the fact that Brandes includes a number of facts that surrounded The Gunpowder Plot.

 

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 8th July 2018

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Earth and Air – a novella prequel to the Earth Girl series by Janet Edwards

Teaser Tuesday featuring Fawkes by Nadine Brandes

Dying for Space Giveaway ENDS TODAY

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Prime Meridian by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

My Top Ten Favourite Reads of 2018 So Far…

Friday Face-off – There’s more of gravy than grave about you… featuring The Ghost Brigades – Book 2 of The Old Man’s War series by John Scalzi

Review of Breach of Containment – Book 3 of the Central Corps series by Elizabeth Bonesteel

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

A quote for readers… https://powerfulwomenreaders.wordpress.com/2018/07/13/a-quote-for-readers/ I really loved this – it sums up my feelings about certain books so accurately.

Blood Moon 2018: Total Lunar Eclipse on July 27 https://earthianhivemind.net/2018/07/13/blood-moon-2018-total-lunar-eclipse-july-27/ I was really excited to read about this one – we come within the band that gets to see the second half of it

The 2018 Blogoversy: Nine Favorite Writing Tips of All Time https://saraletourneauwriter.com/2018/07/11/2018-blogoversary-nine-favorite-writing-tips/ Sara writes a series of indepth articles on the craft of writing, so there are worth reading

Speculative Fiction Showcase: Kristell Ink Sci-fi anthology launch in Waterstones… http://indiespecfic.blogspot.com/2018/06/kristell-ink-sci-fi-anthology-launch-in.html?spref=tw I was startled to see yours truly in a mirror arriving at the Waterstones launch at Oxford – and delighted to read Jessica’s account of the evening.

When the Book Isn’t Better https://marvelatwords.wordpress.com/2018/07/09/when-the-book-isnt-better/ Wendleberry lists the books that she found disappointing after seeing the film – do you agree with her choices?

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

2016 Discovery Challenge – July Roundup

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After reading Joanne Hall’s thought-provoking post, I decided to read and review at least two women authors unknown to me each month. After a rather paltry effort last month, during July I read and reviewed 6 Discovery Challenge books. Four are science fiction reads, one is contemporary and another is a YA paranormal thriller. This takes my yearly total so far to 28 books read and reviewed by women I haven’t previously encountered – and so far this year has been a fantastic year for really good books.

Speak by Louisa Hall
speakIn a narrative that spans geography and time, from the Atlantic Ocean in the seventeenth century, to a correctional institute in Texas in the near future, and told from the perspectives of five very different characters, Speak considers what it means to be human, and what it means to be less than fully alive. A young Puritan woman travels to the New World with her unwanted new husband. Alan Turing, the renowned mathematician and code breaker, writes letters to his best friend’s mother. A Jewish refugee and professor of computer science struggles to reconnect with his increasingly detached wife. An isolated and traumatized young girl exchanges messages with an intelligent software program. A former Silicon Valley Wunderkind is imprisoned for creating illegal lifelike dolls.

It is a very neat idea – to bind up the voices and slices of people’s history inside a discarded AI, struggling to conserve her battery as she is stored in a warehouse with other bots for the crime of being too lifelike. I have a feeling this book is one that will stay with me for a long time.

 

 

Inborn – Book 1 of The Birthright series by Amy Saunders
InbornRosamund Brandt has had a semi normal life for sixteen years. Well, semi normal for a family descended from aliens. Sure, she could create portals and her family had a secret basement. But she went to school, had a best friend, and got her driving permit like every other teen. However, her definition of “normal” unravels when a killer with multiple powers and an agenda steps into town. When Rosamund herself becomes a target, she has a choice between playing the killer’s game and saving a few, or getting to the core of the murders and stopping them for good. Rosamund’s choice will save everyone she cares about–or unleash a new era for herself and her family, shattering whatever hope for going back to normal she had.

This story tips us right into the middle of the action at the beginning of the book, as Rosamund immediately is pitchforked into the initial action that triggers the cascade of events that then continually ricochet through the book. I would have enjoyed it more if there had been less foot-to-the-floor action and bit more of a chance to get to know all the characters better – particularly the antagonist. However the premise is intriguing and I think this series could settle down to be really strong.

 

 

Machinations – Book 1 of the Machinations series by Hayley Stone
The machines have risen, but not out of malice. They were simply following a command: to stop the machinationsendless wars that have plagued the world throughout history. Their solution was perfectly logical. To end the fighting, they decided to end the human race. A potent symbol of the resistance, Rhona Long has served on the front lines of the conflict since the first Machinations began—until she is killed during a rescue mission gone wrong. Now Rhona awakens to find herself transported to a new body, complete with her DNA, her personality, even her memories. She is a clone . . . of herself. Trapped in the shadow of the life she once knew, the reincarnated Rhona must find her place among old friends and newfound enemies—and quickly. For the machines are inching closer to exterminating humans for good. And only Rhona, whoever she is now, can save them.

This book thoroughly and effectively explored what it means to be a clone, both for the cloned person and those around her. For all it being used as a regular plot device, I cannot recall another book that deals with the fallout of cloning better. While there are some issues around the worldbuilding and the depiction of the machines and Rhona’s role near the end of the book, I look forward to reading what happens next in this intriguing series.

 

 

Woman of the Hour by Jane Lythell
womanofthehourLiz Lyon is Head of Features at StoryWorld TV. It’s exhilarating and sometimes glamorous work, but as a single mother with a demanding career, her life is a constant balancing act. Then simmering tensions erupt at the station, trapping Liz in a web of rivalry, manipulation and deceit. If she trusts the wrong person, she could lose her job. But with everything she thought she knew crumbling around her, can she even trust herself?

Jane worked as a head researcher for breakfast TV for some fifteen years – and her wealth of experience bounces off the page in this original, thoroughly enjoyable story that wouldn’t let me go as I read it in one greedy gulp. I’m going to be tracking down the next instalment, too.

 

 

shiftShift by Em Bailey
Olive Corbett is not crazy. Not anymore.
She obediently takes her meds and stays under the radar at school. After “the incident,” Olive just wants to avoid any more trouble, so she knows the smartest thing is to stay clear of the new girl who is rumored to have quite the creepy past.
This YA psychological thriller with a paranormal twist started very strongly with laugh-aloud moments as Olive’s snarky commentary on her life pinged off the page. It slightly lost momentum in the middle, as Miranda’s unfortunate effect was far too clearly signposted so that I knew what was coming. However, the ending held a couple of further twists that I found enjoyable.

 

 

An Accident of Stars – Book 1 of The Manifold Worlds series by Foz Meadows
anaccidentofstarsWhen Saffron Coulter stumbles through a hole in reality, she finds herself trapped in Kena, a magical realm on the brink of civil war. There, her fate becomes intertwined with that of three very different women: Zech, the fast-thinking acolyte of a cunning, powerful exile; Viya, the spoiled consort of the empire-building ruler, Vex Leoden; and Gwen, an Earth-born worldwalker whose greatest regret is putting Leoden on the throne. But Leoden has allies, too, chief among them the Vex’Mara Kadeja, a dangerous ex-priestess who shares his dreams of conquest.

This portal fantasy adventure is a delight – it was great to read female characters who weren’t necessarily young, beautiful or ‘chosen’ who had risen within the society. Characters who despite being brave and prepared to die trying to do the right thing, are also manipulative and lethally sarcastic… This book is my favourite of my Discovery Challenge reads in July and I will now be on the lookout for other Foz Meadows’ offerings.

 

Tackling my TBR
This is in response to my habit of continually gathering up new books – and not reading them. I want try and reduce the teetering pile by my bed, so I’ve decided to report back on how I’m doing in the hope that it will nudge me to read more of them!

Me Before You by JoJo Moyes
Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and mebeforeyouhome. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick. What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to lose her job or that knowing what’s coming is what keeps her sane. Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he’s going to put a stop to that. What Will doesn’t know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they’re going to change the other for all time.

This was one recommended by one of my Creative Writing students a while ago and I’m not sure why I didn’t immediately read it after having acquired it – but once I got hold of the sequel, it made sense to read it first. I’m very glad I did… It is an emotional, engrossing read that manages to deal with some very gnarly subjects without lapsing into sentimentality.

 

 

Nice Dragons Finish Last – Book 1 of the Heartstrikers series by Rachel Aaron
nicedragonsfinishlastAs the smallest dragon in the Heartstriker clan, Julius survives by a simple code: keep quiet, don’t cause trouble, and stay out of the way of bigger dragons. But this meek behavior doesn’t fly in a family of ambitious magical predators, and his mother, Bethesda the Heartstriker, has finally reached the end of her patience. Now, sealed in human form and banished to the DFZ–a vertical metropolis built on the ruins of Old Detroit–Julius has one month to prove that he can be a ruthless dragon or kiss his true shape goodbye forever. But in a city of modern mages and vengeful spirits where dragons are considered monsters to be exterminated, he’s going to need some serious help to survive this test. He only hopes humans are more trustworthy than dragons…

This draconic twist on the usual urban fantasy tropes is such fun – I thoroughly enjoyed this one and look forward to reading the next in the series. Happily, that is also stacked up on my teetering TBR pile…

 

 

The Fifth Season – Book 1 of the Broken Earth series by N.K. Jemisin
THIS IS THE WAY THE WORLD ENDS… FOR THE LAST TIME.thefifthseason
A season of endings has begun. It starts with the great red rift across the heart of the world’s sole continent, spewing ash that blots out the sun. It starts with death, with a murdered son and a missing daughter. It starts with betrayal, and long dormant wounds rising up to fester.
This is the Stillness, a land long familiar with catastrophe, where the power of the earth is wielded as a weapon. And where there is no mercy.

Yes… Essun starts out desperately trying to come to terms with an unthinkable family tragedy and the apocalyptic world is undeniably grim. But this is so much more than a retread of a nasty slide from civilisation into chaos – there is also a gripping backstory about a small group of people feared and harnessed for their vital skills. And the twist at the end is a doozy… I haven’t yet released my review of this book – but it was my favourite read in a month characterised by a slew of really good books. And I’m now eagerly awaiting the release of the sequel, which will NOT be languishing on my TBR pile for the same length of time.

Review of Speak by Louisa Hall

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I scooped this off the library shelves, caught by the arresting cover and opened up the book. The riveting opening pages and high quality of the writing pulled me in and despite the fact that my own TBR is now in danger of engulfing a small grandchild, decided to take it home.

speakA young Puritan woman travels to the New World with her unwanted new husband. Alan Turing, the renowned mathematician and code breaker, writes letters to his best friend’s mother. A Jewish refugee and professor of computer science struggles to reconnect with his increasingly detached wife. An isolated and traumatized young girl exchanges messages with an intelligent software program. A former Silicon Valley Wunderkind is imprisoned for creating illegal lifelike dolls. Each of these characters is attempting to communicate across gaps — to estranged spouses, lost friends, future readers, or a computer program that may or may not understand them. In dazzling and electrifying prose, Louisa Hall explores how the chasm between computer and human — shrinking rapidly with today’s technological advances — echoes the gaps that exist between ordinary people. Though each speaks from a distinct place and moment in time, all five characters share the need to express themselves while simultaneously wondering if they will ever be heard, or understood.

And there you have the rather long blurb. However, given the nature of the book, I think it is justified. There are five distinct narrative voices that spool through the book, giving their own experiences, reaching from the past with Mary’s account of the long Atlantic crossing and Alan Turing’s moving letters, to the future inventor of the babybots, reflecting on his experiences. However this isn’t, is a foot-to-the-floor, adrenaline-fuelled adventure. What it does is reflect upon the issue of voice, who is heard and continues to be heard and what it means to communicate.

It’s no accident that the two historical voices are from marginalised groups – one a young Puritan woman and the other a homosexual in post-war Britain when people born with such sexual preferences were officially outlawed and disgraced. Both accounts are moving and I found Turing’s letters very poignant, given that I knew before I started the book what his fate would be.

It is a very neat plot twist – to bind up the voices and slices of people’s history inside a discarded AI, struggling to conserve her battery as she is stored in a warehouse with other bots for the crime of being too lifelike. I have a feeling this book is one that will stay with me for a long time – after all, what will be our legacy, those of us who have gone, now we no longer write down our feelings and emotions on paper, but instead, consign them to our computers? What will happen in the future when those computers can talk back to us? Will we get to rely far too much on them, until they are banned and outlawed? Considering these kinds of issues before we – inevitably – reach the stage where they are technically feasible, which isn’t that far away when you look at the likes of Cortana and Siri, is what science fiction does at its best.
10/10

Sunday Post – 10th July

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Sunday Post

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.

I’ve finally settled down with the new computer and am delighted with the speed at which I can get through the work, now I’m not sitting there waiting for it to open… save… restart… This week, as well as continuing with my fitness regime of Fitstep and Pilates classes, I’ve been busy planning. I met up with fellow tutor Paula Glennister and we spent Tuesday morning working out how we are going to deliver our shared course creative writing course Bucket List Books, due to start at Northbrook College in September. It is really exciting working on a new project and I’m looking forward to this one – fingers crossed we get sufficient numbers…

I also had a planning session regarding Tim’s teaching syllabus next year. We have finally worked out that he will be working on a series of mini-projects over the last two years, which will give him final certification commensurate with a GCSE qualification, overseen and marked by an affiliated school. The course is excellent, covering important subjects like personal finance, health and diet, safety and the environment – I only wish that my grandchildren, Frankie and Oscar, could also work on such a common-sense, practical scheme.

On Thursday, Rob came home for a flying visit so I could help him with an audition tape – very intense, but also great fun and it’s always a treat to catch up with him.

I’m now back into editing mode and am hoping to have completed the line edit for Breathing Space during this coming week. And I’ve been chilling by watching Wimbledon – my annual sporting treat – the tennis this week has been superb and I’m rooting for Andy Murry and delighted at Serena Williams’ wonderful win, as well as her moving, shortened rendition of Maya Angelou’s poem ‘And Still I Rise’.

This week I’ve managed to read:

Speak by Louisa Hall
speakA young Puritan woman travels to the New World with her unwanted new husband. Alan Turing, the renowned mathematician and code breaker, writes letters to his best friend’s mother. A Jewish refugee and professor of computer science struggles to reconnect with his increasingly detached wife. An isolated and traumatized young girl exchanges messages with an intelligent software program. A former Silicon Valley Wunderkind is imprisoned for creating illegal lifelike dolls. Each of these characters is attempting to communicate across gaps — to estranged spouses, lost friends, future readers, or a computer program that may or may not understand them. In dazzling and electrifying prose, Louisa Hall explores how the chasm between computer and human — shrinking rapidly with today’s technological advances — echoes the gaps that exist between ordinary people. Though each speaks from a distinct place and moment in time, all five characters share the need to express themselves while simultaneously wondering if they will ever be heard, or understood.
This remarkable novel is an exploration of why we reach out to each other and happens when it goes wrong. I loved the fact the five voices are embedded in a dying android, warehoused for the crime of being too human…

 

Me Before You by JoJo Moyes
mebeforeyouLou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick. What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to lose her job or that knowing what’s coming is what keeps her sane. Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he’s going to put a stop to that. What Will doesn’t know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they’re going to change the other for all time.
I love this author – see my review of The Girl You Left Behind here – but this particular book blew me away. It would have been so easy to have turned this into a sentimental mess – and Moyes doesn’t. Instead, I was laughing out loud a lot of the way through. I will be reviewing this book in due course.

 

Inborn – Book 1 of The Birthright series
InbornRosamund Brandt has had a semi normal life for sixteen years. Well, semi normal for a family descended from aliens. Sure, she could create portals and her family had a secret basement. But she went to school, had a best friend, and got her driving permit like every other teen. However, her definition of “normal” unravels when a killer with multiple powers and an agenda steps into town. When Rosamund herself becomes a target, she has a choice between playing the killer’s game and saving a few, or getting to the core of the murders and stopping them for good. Rosamund’s choice will save everyone she cares about–or unleash a new era for herself and her family, shattering whatever hope for going back to normal she had.
This is a great premise and I enjoyed the idea behind it. Ros, the protagonist, is smart, tough and well trained – a classic YA heroine. I’ll be reviewing this book in due course.

 

After You – Book 2 of Me Before You series by JoJo Moyes
afteryouWhen an extraordinary accident forces Lou to return home to her family, she can’t help but feel she’s right back where she started. Her body heals, but Lou herself knows that she needs to be kick-started back to life. Which is how she ends up in a church basement with the members of the Moving On support group, who share insights, laughter, frustrations, and terrible cookies. They will also lead her to the strong, capable Sam Fielding—the paramedic, whose business is life and death, and the one man who might be able to understand her. Then a figure from Will’s past appears and hijacks all her plans, propelling her into a very different future…

After the amazing reading experience that Me After You provided, I wanted to plunge back into this world and learn about Lou’s subsequent adventures – she’s such a fantastic protagonist.

 

 

My posts last week:
Sunday Post – 3rd July

Shoot for the Moon Challenge 2016 – June roundup

Teaser Tuesday – Speak by Louisa Hall

Review of Demon Road by Derek Landy

Five SFF Books That Made Me Laugh – part 2

Friday Faceoff – Our Four-Legged Friends featuring The Reindeer People by Megan Lindholm

Review of Me Before You by JoJo Moyes

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

This charming selection of short films chosen by Joanna Maciejewska are really worth viewing – http://melfka.com/archives/1863

No one writes about music with more passion than Thom Hickey – this article celebrating Bill Withers’ song ‘Lean on Me’ is wonderful… https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2016/07/05/bill-withers-american-hero-born-on-the-4th-of-july

I love this book spine poetry by Jo Robertson. https://mychestnutreadingtree.wordpress.com/2016/07/06/book-spine-poetry

Juliet McKenna, who has devoted swathes of time to campaign on behalf of authors selling their books from their own websites, updates us on the situation post-Brexit… http://www.julietemckenna.com/?p=2199

This article blew me away – I knew of the guild system and journeymen, but had no idea it still continued… https://inesemjphotography.com/2016/07/02/journeymen-in-ireland-and-much-more/

I’m hoping this week that I can really crack on this the editing and progress with some of my other writing chores stacking up… The weather isn’t looking as if it will tempt me out into the garden, Many thanks for visiting and taking the time and trouble to comment – and may you have a wonderful reading and blogging week.