Tag Archives: Liz de Jager

2016 Discovery Challenge – How Did I Do?

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After reading Jo Hall’s post here, I decided to join this challenge and set myself the target of reading and reviewing at least two books a month by women authors I’ve not previously encountered. For a variety of reasons, 2016 proved to be my best reading year, ever. So I actually read and reviewed 45 books by women I haven’t read before. There were so many great authors in that group and my top five are included in my outstanding books of 2016 – see here. So I want to feature my top five very near misses in no particular order:-

Radiance by Cathrynne M. Valente
radianceI enjoy being a Netgalley reader – it pushes me out of my comfort zone every so often. I’m not sure I would have picked up this offering if it hadn’t been on offer, given the description was a decopunk pulp SF alt-history space opera mystery set in a Hollywood-and solar system-very different from our own. Severin Unck’s father is a famous director of Gothic romances in an alternate 1986 in which talking movies are still a daring innovation due to the patent-hoarding Edison family. Rebelling against her father’s films of passion, intrigue, and spirits from beyond, Severin starts making documentaries, traveling through space and investigating the levitator cults of Neptune and the lawless saloons of Mars. For this is not our solar system, but one drawn from classic science fiction in which all the planets are inhabited and we travel through space on beautiful rockets. Severin is a realist in a fantastic universe.

For starters, this is a novel with a fractured timeline, so the story skips around and is told in a mixture of interviews, gossip and through extracts of old classic film, among other narrative modes. Therefore you need to pay attention. Initially I wondered what I was getting myself into – for the sheer oddness of the world wasn’t anything I was prepared for, given that I’m allergic to reading any kind of blurb. Was it worth the effort? Oh, yes.

 

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.

I also read and reviewed the second book, Counterpart in this intriguing series. There are indications that Stone is still feeling her way – this is, after all, her debut novel and the machines weren’t particularly vividly drawn – but I have never read a book where the issue of cloning has been so thoroughly and emotionally examined. Despite its flaws, this one has stayed with me.

 

The Fettered Flame – Book 2 of the Shkode series by E.D.E. Bell
thefetteredflameThe Fettered Flame is a genre-bending fantasy novel that continues the saga of two dying worlds, plagued by their own unique struggles for power. Follow the journeys of Cor – a woman striving to understand her powers of magic and how the connect to her past, Atesh – her contemplative dragon companion, and Jwala – a dragon plunged into a rebirth of ancient ideals. The Fettered Flame is the second instalment in the Shkode trilogy: a quirky and modern take on dragons and wizards, exploring themes of identity, prejudice, violence, compassion, and the ways we are all connected.

I was sufficiently impressed to seek out the first book, The Banished Craft, in this science fiction/fantasy mashup. The blurb may sound a bit gushy, but it is spot on. This is epic fantasy with a sci fi twist and I’m looking forward to reading the next instalment when it is released as I love the characters and Bell’s quirky, insightful take on the world she has created.

 

Rosemary and Rue – Book 1 of the Toby Daye series by Seanan McGuire
October “Toby” Daye, a changeling who is half human and half fae, has been an outsider from birth. rosemaryandrueAfter getting burned by both sides of her heritage, Toby has denied the Faerie world, retreating to a “normal” life. Unfortunately for her, the Faerie world has other ideas…

I loved McGuire’s writing and went on to read her wonderful novella Every Heart a Doorway. One of my promises to myself is to continue reading more of the Toby Daye series in 2017.

 

Rebel of the Sands – Book 1 of the Rebel of the Sands series by Alywn Hamilton
rebelofthesandsMortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mystical beasts still roam the wild and barren wastes, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinni still practice their magic. But there’s nothing mystical or magical about Dustwalk, the dead-end town that Amani can’t wait to escape from. Destined to wind up “wed or dead,” Amani’s counting on her sharpshooting skills to get her out of Dustwalk, but things don’t go according to plan…

Hamilton’s punchy, accomplished writing grabbed me from the first page and didn’t let go until the end of this adrenaline-fuelled ride. Amani is a feisty heroine who attracts trouble like iron filings to a magnet and I found this one really hard to put down until it was finished and am very much looking forward to reading the sequel.

 

Given I nearly doubled the target number of women authors I read and reviewed, should I increase my goal for 2017? I’ve decided against doing so. One of the reasons why 2016 was such a bumper reading year was because I wasn’t writing. Editing and rewriting, yes – but I wrote nothing new. So reading became a refuge that I don’t normally crave so intensely as diving into a new world of my own for the first time tends to thoroughly tick that box. Therefore, I shall launch my 2017 Discovery Challenge with the target of reading and reviewing at least two books a month by women writers previously unknown to me. And if I have half as much joy in the coming year as I’ve had reading this year’s offerings, I shall be very happy, indeed.

What about you? Did you set yourself any reading challenges in 2016 – and if so, how have you got on? Do you intend to continue them into 2017?

Discovery Challenge Books I Read in 2016
1. The Puppet Boy of Warsaw by Eva Weaver
2. Truthwitch – Book 1 of the Witchlands series by Susan Dennard
3. Gold, Fame, Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins
4. Daughter of Smoke and Bone – Book 1 of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini Taylor
5. Heart of Obsidian – Book 12 of the Psy-Changeling series by Nalini Singh
6. Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente
7. Rosemary and Rue – Book 1 of the Toby Daye series by Seanan McGuire
8. Radio Silence by Alice Oseman
9. The Sector – Book 1 of the Non-Compliance series by Paige Daniels
10. Brink’s Unfortunate Escape from Hell – Prequel to the Skycastle series by Andy Mulberry
11. The Many Selves of Katherine North by Emma Geen
12. The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
13. Cinder – Book 1 of the Luna Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
14. Bright Blaze of Magic – Book 3 of the Black Blade series by Jennifer Estep
15. A Rural Affair by Catherine Alliott
16. Queen of Hearts – Book 1 of the Queen of Hearts saga by Colleen Oakes
17. The Outliers – Book 1 of The Outliers trilogy by Kimberley McCreight
18. The Loneliness of Distant Beings by Kate Ling
19. Banished – Book 1 of the Blackhart trilogy by Liz de Jager
20. The Nothing Girl by Jodi Taylor
21. Change of Life – Book 2 of a Menopausal Superhero by Samantha Bryant
22. Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet by Charlie N. Holmberg
23. Speak by Louisa Hall
24. Inborn – Book 1 of The Birthright series by Amy Saunders
25. Machinations – Book 1 of The Machinations series by Hayley Stone
26. Woman of the Hour by Jane Lythell
27. Shift by Em Bailey
28. An Accident of Stars – Book 1 of The Manifold Worlds series by Foz Meadows
29. Across the Universe – Book 1 of the Across the Universe series by Beth Revis
30. The Thousandth Floor – Book 1 of The Thousandth Floor series by Katherine McGee
31. The Changeling by Christina Soontornvat
32. The Fettered Flame – Book 2 of the Shkode series by E.D.E. Bell
33. Aveline – Book 1 of The Lost Vegas series by Lizzy Ford
34. Escapology by Ren Warom
35. So Many Boots, So Little Time – Book 3 of the MisAdventures of Miss Lilly series by Kalan Chapman Lloyd
36. The Imlen Brat by Sarah Avery
37. Return to the Secret Garden by Holly Webb
38. A Darker Shade of Magic – Book 1 of the Shades of Magic series by V.E. Schwab
39. Synners by Pat Cadigan
40. Renting Silence – A Roaring Twenties Mystery by Mary Miley
41. Split the Sun – Book 2 of the Inherit the Stars duology by Tessa Elwood
42. Rebel of the Sands – Book 1 of the Rebel of the Sands series by Alwyn Hamilton
43. Ever the Hunted – Book 1 of the Clash of Kingdoms series by Erin Summerill
44. The City of Ice – Book 2 of the Gates of the World series by K.M. McKinley
45. Graveyard Shift – Book 10 of the Pepper Martin series by Casey Daniels

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Review of KINDLE Edition of Judged – Book 3 of The Blackhart Legacy Trilogy by Liz de Jagar

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This is the next slice of the adventure featuring Kit Blackhart in this UK-based urban fantasy. Would I enjoy Judged as much as Banished and Vowed?

judgedKit’s job description includes solving crimes – the supernatural kind . . . Glow, a fae-created drug, is rapidly going viral and the suppliers have to be shut down. Teaming up with Aiden and Dante, Kit follows leads across London, tracking down dealers. They stir up trouble, making themselves a target for the gang they’re trying to stop. In the Otherwhere, Thorn stumbles across a secret that could destroy both the human and Fae worlds. The Veil that separates our human world from the fae realms is weakening and the goddess is dying. And if she dies and the Veil fails, madness and chaos will wreak unstoppable havoc upon both lands.

My firm advice is not to start this one – if you have mistakenly picked it up thinking it is a stand-alone, then go back and track down Banished. The overarching story arc stretches across all three books and what happened previously is still having consequences such that your reading enperience will be significantly compromised, which would be a shame with such an enjoyable series.

Kit’s first person viewpoint continues to bounce off the page as she is teamed up with werewolf Aiden and fae Dante. I really like the fact that de Jagar doesn’t have these two fit young men vying for her attention, but instead they are busy flirting with each other. Aiden, in particular, is very drawn to Dante, yet unsure whether his feelings are returned so is reluctant to endanger their friendship and working relationship by declaring his attraction. This dynamic, frequently used when heterosexual couples are working together, is given an even stronger impetus here that I thoroughly enjoyed and felt de Jagar handled the situation very well. Not that they have all that much time to gaze into each others’ eyes to exchange unspoken desire – the relentless spread of Glow is causing death and misery so that Kit, Aiden and Dante are desperate to track down the suppliers and put a stop to their activities.

Meanwhile Prince Thorn is also dealing with a gnarly problem as the Veil is failing with disastrous consequences particularly for humanity if hordes of lethal creatures are free to flood into their world. The two main plotpoints are nicely balanced as the narrative steadily gathers pace throughout the book. There are some interesting twists along the way that provided some surprises – I enjoyed the unfolding story around Dante’s origins and one of the consequences which appears to be happening before it isn’t…

The climax provides plenty of action and yet another shock I hadn’t seen coming. All the plotpoints are satisfactorily tidied away, bringing this book and series to a triumphant conclusion. If you are looking for an escapist fantasy adventure during the holiday season, then I can recommend this series.
9/10

Teaser Tuesday – 6th December, 2016

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Teaser

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Books and a Beat.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:
Judged – Book 3 of The Blackhart Legacy by Liz de Jager
13% ‘Bro, it’s a mess.’ One boy shakes his head. He’s got eyeliner smeared under his eyes and too judgedmuch glitter down the side of this face. He leans against a girl, her arms wrapped around his waist. Looking at the group, I realize they all look shell-shocked. ‘We got here about an hour before the police showed up. Everything was going so well and we were all just partying hard.’

BLURB

Kit’s job description includes solving crimes – the supernatural kind . . .

Glow, a fae-created drug, is rapidly going viral and the suppliers have to be shut down. Teaming up with Aiden and Dante, Kit follows leads across London, tracking down dealers. They stir up trouble, making themselves a target for the gang they’re trying to stop.

In the Otherwhere, Thorn stumbles across a secret that could destroy both the human and Fae worlds. The Veil that separates our human world from the fae realms is weakening and the goddess is dying. And if she dies and the Veil fails, madness and chaos will wreak unstoppable havoc upon both lands.

As you can see, it’s early days, but I really enjoyed the first two books in this series – Banished and Vowed. Right now Kit is on the ropes after the devastating outcome in Vowed, but I’m just beginning to see her get her mojo back as the pace is picking up and she is becoming involved in this investigation to get to the bottom of who is handing out quantities of illegal and highly addictive drug Glow at clubs, raves, universities and schools. Yes – it’s great to be once more immersed in de Jagar goodness…

Review of Vowed – Book 2 of The Blackhart Legacy series by Liz de Jager

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I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this urban fantasy series about a family with particular skills who have appointed themselves as guardians to protect humanity from the beings of the Otherworld who make their way into our dimension and cause havoc – see my review of Banished here. Would the second book manage to match the entertaining start to this series?

Kit Blackhart must investigate why children are disappearing from a London estate. However, their parents, police and fae allies claim to know nothing. And as yet more children disappear, the pressure mounts. Luckily, or unluckily, government trainee Dante Alexander is helping Kit with the case. Yet just as her feelings towards him begin to thaw, his life falls apart. As Kit struggles to unravel his problems and dangerous secrets, she meets fae Prince Thorn in her dreams – but their relationship is utterly forbidden.

vowedI immediately caught up with what was going on in Kit’s world, with the strong first person narrative that bounces off the page. Kit’s character is well portrayed and is completely convincing as a strong, opinionated teenager who has had a tough time. It’s a balancing act – too much misery and angst and the pacing would be compromised, while too much action without any consideration of what’s been going on would give Kit all the depth of a pavement puddle. It’s a trickier task to accomplish than de Jager makes it look, as I liked Kit’s moments of introspection.

There are a few scenes where the first person narration is interrupted by third-person viewpoint episodes featuring Thorn, the fae prince who featured in the first book. As Kit’s personality is so strongly established throughout the book, I didn’t find these sections jarring, and was interested to see what is going on with him. As in the first book, I had made some assumptions as to where the storyline would go – only to suddenly find it had peeled off into quite another direction. This certainly was the case with Kit’s investigative partner, Dante, who suddenly finds himself facing a sudden challenge while trying to track down the missing children, that is going to have some long-term ramifications. I am hoping that his relationship with Kit isn’t going to develop into the dreaded triangle, as so far I’ve enjoyed their partnership and would prefer it to stay platonic.

I also very much like the dynamic of Kit’s role within a large, extended family which she doesn’t know very well. While there are times when she enjoys being part of the Blackhart clan, it isn’t all hearts and flowers finding yourself in the middle of a large family. I also very much liked the fact that Kit at times really misses her nan. Far too often within this sub-genre, people die in one book where there is a short grieving section – and then for the rest of the series, the dead character is barely mentioned again.

As for the ending – well… I didn’t see that one coming! However, I thought the case was going to be resolved, the conclusion was quite unexpected and thought-provoking. This gives the series real impetus – and I’m now keen to get hold of the third book, Judged, and find out what happens next.
9/10

Sunday Post – 17th 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 am delighted to report that I have FINALLY completed the line edit of Breathing Space! I am now turning my attention to writing the course notes for my one day Writing Surgery course that will be running next Friday, which I’m really looking forward to – it’ll be great to catch up with some of my students. I have also found out that my Creative Writing course next term is already full – which is great news and I’m only 3 more spaces away from having the minimum numbers to run my Monday evening course as well – a brilliant position to be in this early, given that the courses have only been available for three weeks.

janelythellbooklaunchOn Thursday, my writing buddy, Sarah Palmer and I were invited to another great book launch – this time at Waterstones in Brighton which is a fabulous shop over three storeys and walking through, I noticed at least two more books I’ll be shortly adding to my reading pile. Jane Lythell’s third book, Woman of the Hour, was released and I came away clutching a hardcover copy, which Jane signed for me. It was a lovely evening, where as well as meeting up with Jane again – a lovely person – I caught up with other writers such as Tracy Fells, Wendy Clarke and Phil Viner. As for Woman of the Hour, I started reading it yesterday morning and found it very difficult to stop, finishing it this morning. I’ll be reviewing it in due course.

 

 

This week I’ve managed to read:
Nice Dragons Finish Last – Book 1 of the Heartstriker series by Rachel Aaron
As the smallest dragon in the Heartstriker clan, Julius survives by a simple code: keep quiet, don’t cause nicedragonsfinishlasttrouble, 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 science fiction/urban fantasy mash-up is a delightful read – full of incident in an enjoyably original world with likeable, surprising protagonists – great fun!

 

 

Machinations – Book 1 of the Machinations series by Hayley Stone
machinationsThe machines have risen, but not out of malice. They were simply following a command: to stop the endless 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.
I really loved the sense of displacement Rhona feels upon waking up as a clone – I’ve read a number of books where clones are featured and this is one of the best at depicting the fallout of trying to step back into a life only partially remembered. I will be reviewing it in due course.

 

 

Vowed – Book 2 of The Blackhart Legacy series by Liz de Jager
A Blackhart can see the supernatural behind everyday crimes. But some crimes hide even greater evils… vowedKit Blackhart must investigate why children are disappearing from a London estate. However, their parents, police and fae allies claim to know nothing. And as yet more children disappear, the pressure mounts. Luckily, or unluckily, government trainee Dante Alexander is helping Kit with the case. Yet just as her feelings towards him begin to thaw, his life falls apart. As Kit struggles to unravel his problems and dangerous secrets, she meets fae Prince Thorn in her dreams – but their relationship is utterly forbidden.Then Kit digs too deep, and uncovers a mystery that’s been hidden for one thousand years. It’s a secret that could just tear down our world.
I really enjoyed Banished, the first book in this series – see my review here, so was keen to catch up with Kit’s adventures in the sequel. It did not disappoint – and I’ll be reviewing it in due course.

 

 

The Woman of the House – Book 1 of the StoryWorld series 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? A twisty drama of secrets and lies in a London TV station, this is the first book in the StoryWorld series from the acclaimed author of The Lie Of You.
I’d heard Jane’s excellent talk at West Sussex Writers where she had mentioned this book – and very kindly invited me along to the book launch – and was intrigued by the original premise. It’s a cracking read, funny, poignant and completely engrossing. I shall be posting a review of it this coming week.
As you can see, it’s been a brilliant reading week with a range of different books, all enjoyably good so I’ll be reviewing them all in due course.

My posts last week:
Sunday Post – 10th July

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL – Review of The Ghoul King – Book 2 of the Dreaming Cities series by Guy Haley

Teaser Tuesday – Machinations – Book 1 of the Machinations series by Hayley Stone

Review of Night Shift – Book 3 of the Midnight, Texas series by Charlaine Harris

2016 Discovery Challenge – June Roundup

Friday Faceoff – Lady in Red featuring Spy Night on Union Station – Book 4 of the EarthCent Ambassador series by E.M. Foner

Review of Nice Dragons Finish Last – Book 1 of the Heartstriker series by Rachel Aaron

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

The 2016 Discoverability Challenge – Kate Coe At the Half-Time Whistle –
https://hierath.wordpress.com/2016/06/21/the-2016-discoverability-challenge-kate-coe-at-the-half-time-whistle/
I’m taking part in this, so it was interesting to see how another participant was getting on…

High Summer Read-a-thon – https://onceuponalittlefield.wordpress.com/2016/07/16/high-summer-read-a-thon/
I love the idea of settling into a book, knowing others are doing the same around the blogosphere at exactly the same time – social media at its shiny best!

A Short Analysis of Philip Larkin’s ‘An Arundel Tomb’ – https://interestingliterature.com/2016/07/15/a-short-analysis-of-philip-larkins-an-arundel-tomb/
As ever, an excellent article on the finer details of this interesting poem – and my fascination is sharpened by the fact that Chichester Cathedral is only a short drive away and I’m a regular visitor, so I know this tomb.

I have one more week before the schools break up and I’m into major granny-mode, so I’m hoping to get some major chores on my To Do list tidied up this week. Many thanks for visiting and taking the time and trouble to comment – and may you have a wonderful reading and blogging week.

Sunday Post – 19th June

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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.

Still in the foothills of Editland, I’m now more than a third of the way through line editing Breathing Space. I let loose Electric Annie’s voice, courtesy of Word, so the computer slowly reads through the manuscript aloud to me, while I follow it on the screen, set on 125% zoom. I haven’t yet found a more effective way of picking up the graunching phrases, small errors and fiddling plot holes and anomalies. The catch is that it takes a lot of time and concentration – and it isn’t something I can do when I’m tired.

This week’s Creative Writing classes went well – this term students bring in their own favourite pieces of writing that has inspired them in some way and share it with the group. We have had fiction ranging from Charles Dickens to J.K. Rowling and everything in between; the teachings of Idris Shah and the life of Desert Orchid; as well as poetry ranging from John Cooper Clark to Rudyard Kipling. It has been highly enjoyable – and the icing on the cake is that the work my lovely students produce just goes on getting better… One of my students won a poetry competition this week, while another was shortlisted for yet another competition. It’s been a good term.

I’m still not up to full speed on my reading this week, because when I do finally get to bed, I tend to fall asleep, as I find editing exhausting. So the two books I completed are:

The City of Mirrors – Book 3 of The Passage trilogy by Justin Cronin
thecityofmirrors“The world we knew is gone. What world will rise in its place?”
The Twelve have been destroyed and the hundred-year reign of darkness that descended upon the world has ended. The survivors are stepping outside their walls, determined to build society anew and daring to dream of a hopeful future. But far from them, in a dead metropolis, he waits: Zero. The First. Father of the Twelve. The anguish that shattered his human life haunts him, and the hatred spawned by his transformation burns bright. His fury will be quenched only when he destroys Amy – humanity’s only hope, the Girl from Nowhere who grew up to rise against him. One last time light and dark will clash, and at last Amy and her friends will know their fate…

This is the final book in this remarkable post-apocalyptic trilogy, which has been a real roller-coaster – the writing is remarkable, both gritty and lyrical. Cronin manages to make it acceptable to switch viewpoints three or four times in the space of a couple of pages and you can’t pull off a stunt like that without being very, very talented.

Titanborn by Rhett C. Bruno
Malcolm Graves lives by two rules: finish the job, and get paid. After thirty years as titanborna collector, chasing bounties and extinguishing rebellions throughout the solar system, Malcolm does what he’s told, takes what he’s earned, and leaves the questions to someone else—especially when it comes to the affairs of offworlders. Heading into hostile territory, Malcolm will have to use everything he’s learned to stay alive. But he soon realizes that the situation on the ground is much more complex than he anticipated . . . and much more personal.

Enjoyable, full-on space opera adventure that nevertheless provides some thought-provoking insights into the human condition. Featuring anti-hero Malcolm Graves, the ending was wholly unexpected and very memorable. I loved it! My review will appearing on the blog be next week.

My posts last week:
Sunday Post – 12th June

Review of The Square Peg by Vivienne Tuffnell

Teaser Tuesday – The City of Mirrors – Book 3 of The Passage trilogy by Justin Cronin

Review of Banished – Book 1 of The Blackhart Legacy by Liz de Jager

The Freestyle Writing Challenge

Friday Faceoff – Better a Witty Fool Than a Foolish Wit featuring Master and Fool – Book 3 of The Book of Words series by J.V. Jones

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The City of Mirrors – Book 3 The Passage series by Justin Cronin

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

I loved this enjoyable, articulate article about a long-standing passion. Why I Write Science Fiction by Kate Colby. https://katemcolby.com/2016/06/15/why-i-write-science-fiction-fantasy/

Some excellent safety tips now we are approaching the time of year when we take our littlies out and about by Wanda Luthman – https://wandaluthman.wordpress.com/2016/06/13/family-vacation-safety/

Another superb post from this lovely site about war poets – some I knew, and some I didn’t… https://interestingliterature.com/2016/06/17/interesting-facts-about-war-poets/

Haunting pictures of children who have been displaced. https://photolicioux.wordpress.com/2016/06/16/from-the-far-from-home-series/

Drew’s Friday Face-off contribution this week featured the mighty Robin Hobb, with a number of different covers for her book Fool’s Errand. Which is your favourite? https://thetattooedbookgeek.wordpress.com/2016/06/17/friday-face-off-17th-june/

Last night I attended the All Night Write event at the old Emporium theatre that ran 88londonrdfrom 10 pm through to 6 am this morning. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but went along with my friend Sarah Palmer. The setting was amazing in an old theatre space, with plenty of tables, comfortable seating and refreshments laid on. Phil Viner, best-selling crime writer, had organised a whole series of talks about all aspects of writing ranging from the actual process of writing, through to a discussion about the role of agents by Phillip Patterson, head of the Books Department from the Marjacq Agency. I particularly enjoyed Sarah Rayner’s excellent talk on self publishing as a hybrid author – the bonus being that these talks were delivered on the set of Peter Pan… Quirky and atmospheric. There was so much going on, we looked around twice – and it was already 3 am. We reluctantly left at 5 am before breakfast was served as we had quite a long journey home and no one wanted to suddenly find themselves falling asleep at the wheel after a fried meal. It was an amazing experience – and the bonus was that I also managed to write the opening pages of Bloodless.

Many thanks for visiting and taking the time and trouble to comment – and may you have a wonderful reading and blogging week.

Review of Banished – Book 1 of The Blackhart Legacy by Liz de Jager

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My friend Mhairi Simpson got hold of the arc of this book at a conference and when I caught sight of the oh-so-pretty cover, I asked if I could borrow it.

Kit is proud to be a Blackhart, now she’s encountered her unorthodox cousins and Banishedtheir strange lives. And her home-schooling now includes spells, fighting enemy fae and using ancient weapons. But it’s not until she rescues a rather handsome fae prince, fighting for his life on the edge of Blackhart Manor, that her training really kicks in. With her family away on various missions, Kit must protect Prince Thorn, rely on new friends and use her own unfamiliar magic to stay ahead of Thorn’s enemies. As things go from bad to apocalyptic, fae battle fae in a war that threatens to spill into the human world. Then Kit pits herself against the Elder Gods themselves – it’s that or lose everyone she’s learnt to love.

Yes… this is a book about a heroine who has had a rocky time of it and then finds her feet among a rather gifted family – and turns out to have some unusual powers. All as cosily familiar as a late-night cup of cocoa. But I really enjoyed this one. The writing is slick and readable, the pacing fast with an enjoyable cast of characters who all pinged off the page. The author can also write a very good fight scene – which is just as well because this is a swords and sorcery adventure packed full of sharp pointy weapons.

There is a sense of real threat from the monsters ranged against Kit and her allies – they didn’t just look repellent, they are cruel and incredibly strong, which increases the stakes when fighting against them. All in all, the worldbuilding is solidly good with a sense a lot has occurred before Kit discovers a Fae personage fighting off baddies on her doorstep, and I also very much appreciated the glimpses of the bigger picture right at the end of the story via the King’s viewpoint. The Fae are particularly well drawn by de Jager, who has provided us with a ringside seat at this coup – and graphically depicted the cost in lives and damage wrought by this powerplay. It was this unfolding drama that sets this book apart for me. I very much want to know more about the Fae royal family and look forward to reading the second book in the series.

Any grizzles? Overall, I enjoyed the relationship between Kit and Thorn – but there was a section in the book where it all seemed to intensify as head-swivelling speed. That said, they had already endured a series of life-threatening adventures together and that can have the effect of heightening feelings – witness all the whirlwind romances during wartime. If you are looking for an enjoyable swords and sorcery Fantasy tale, with plenty of action that doesn’t descend into gritted despair, then go looking for Banished – it’s a thoroughly enjoyable tale.
8/10

2016 Discovery Challenge – May 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. How have I done in May?

theoutliersThe Outliers – Book 1 of The Outliers trilogy by Kimberley McCreight
It all starts with a text: Please, Wylie, I need your help.
This time it’s different, though. Instead of telling Wylie where she is, Cassie sends cryptic clues. And instead of having Wylie come by herself, Jasper shows up saying Cassie sent him to help. Trusting the guy who sent Cassie off the rails doesn’t feel right, but Wylie has no choice: she has to ignore her gut instinct and go with him. But figuring out where Cassie is goes from difficult to dangerous, fast. As Wylie and Jasper head farther and farther north into the dense woods of Maine, Wylie struggles to control her growing sense that something is really wrong. What isn’t Cassie telling them? And could finding her be only the beginning?

This twisting thriller cracks along at a fair pace and delivers plenty of surprises along the way. Read the full review here.

 

thelonelinessofdistantbeingsThe Loneliness of Distant Beings by Kate Ling
Even though she knows it’s impossible, Seren longs to have the sunshine on her skin. It’s something she feels she needs to stay sane. But when you’re floating through space at thousands of kilometres an hour, sometimes you have to accept there are things you cannot change. Except that the arrival of Dom in her life changes everything in ways she can barely comprehend. For a while he becomes the Sun for her; and she can’t help but stay in his orbit. Being with him flaunts every rule designed to keep their home in order, but to lose him would be like losing herself. In the end they must decide what is most important: loyalty to the only home they’ve ever known, or to each other?

This a romantic science fiction tale set on a generational ship – with heavy emphasis on the romance bit. Despite the fact that isn’t my go-to genre, the scene setting and shipboard environment is well depicted – read my full review here.

 

Banished – Book 1 of The Blackhart Legacy by Liz de JagerBanished
Sworn to protect, honour and slay. Because chaos won’t banish itself… Kit is proud to be a Blackhart, now she’s encountered her unorthodox cousins and their strange lives. And her home-schooling now includes spells, fighting enemy fae and using ancient weapons. But it’s not until she rescues a rather handsome fae prince, fighting for his life on the edge of Blackhart Manor, that her training really kicks in. With her family away on various missions, Kit must protect Prince Thorn, rely on new friends and use her own unfamiliar magic to stay ahead of Thorn’s enemies. As things go from bad to apocalyptic, fae battle fae in a war that threatens to spill into the human world. Then Kit pits herself against the Elder Gods themselves – it’s that or lose everyone she’s learnt to love.

This Fae story is well written and engrossing – I really enjoyed the fight scenes, which were vividly depicted and the real nastiness of the foes. I’ll be reviewing this in due course.

 

thenothinggirlThe Nothing Girl by Jodi Taylor
Known as “The Nothing Girl” because of her severe stutter and chronically low self-confidence, Jenny Dove is only just prevented from ending it all by the sudden appearance of Thomas, a mystical golden horse only she can see. Under his guidance, Jenny unexpectedly acquires a husband – the charming and chaotic Russell Checkland – and for her, nothing will ever be the same again. With over-protective relatives on one hand and the world’s most erratic spouse on the other, Jenny needs to become Someone. And fast!

This book made my husband laugh and cry and he forcefully recommended it – so I read it… This contemporary/family/crime/mystery/romance is something of a genre mash-up, with a hefty dollop of humour and sadness thrown in. Have a go – you won’t have read anything else quite like it. My review is here.

 

Change of Life – Book 2 of A Menopausal Superhero by Samantha Bryantchangeoflife
With great power comes…great frustration. Several months after the events of Going Through the Change, retired corporate vice president (and occasional lizard-woman) Patricia O’Neill is embroiled in a search for the mad scientist who brought the “change” upon them all. Meanwhile, Flygirl Jessica Roark and gender-bending strongman Linda/Leonel Alvarez have joined a mysterious covert agency known only as The Department. They’re training hard, in hopes of using their newfound powers for the greater good. Patricia thinks they’re being used. Cut off from the other menopausal heroes, she’s alone. And her search has hit a serious dead end. Then Patricia disappears, and all the clues point to a dead man. It’s up to her friends and The Department to find her and bring her home

I expected this to be a parody of the superhero genre, but it follows most of the genre conventions – except the protagonists are women of a certain age… There are some amusing touches and I love Bryant’s original take on what superpowers can endow. See my review here

This month, I more than doubled my original target with five books by women authors I hadn’t previously encountered and of the 66 books I’ve read so far this year, 30 are by authors new to me. Once more, I have to thank the NetGalley arcs for introducing me to many of these writers. While I cannot see myself able to sustain this throughout the year – I’ve too many other things on my plate – I’m delighted I’ve managed to make such a strong start to my 2016 Discovery Challenge.