Tag Archives: Lois McMaster Bujold

2016 Discovery Challenge – November 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. During November, I read two Discovery Challenge books, which takes my yearly total so far to thirty four books I’ve completed written by women authors I haven’t previously encountered.

Synners by Pat Cadigan

In Synners, the line between humanity and technology is hopelessly slim. The human mind and thesynners external landscape have fused to the point where any encounter with ‘reality’ is incidental. Now you can change yourself to suit the machines – and all it will cost you is your freedom. And your humanity.

This cyberpunk winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award takes a while to get going as the group of disparate characters are established amongst a tech-heavy world in a near-future where everyone is increasingly reliant on their technology. Given that this was written and published back in 1992, before many of our current technological gismos were in current use, Cadigan’s world is eerily prescient. I felt very at home with much of her near-future predictions, which is a tad worrying when considering how it all ends.

 

Renting Silence – Book 3 of the Roaring Twenties Mysteries by Mary Miley
renting-silenceCan 1920 s script girl Jessie do Mary Pickford s bidding and uncover a real killer? When Jessie is asked by her idol, the famous actress Mary Pickford, if she can do some private investigating for her, Jessie reluctantly accepts. A girl was found stabbed in her bedroom with another woman lying unconscious on the floor next to her, a bloody knife in her hand. With no police investigation into the murder, it’s up to Jessie to hone her amateur detective skills and prove the girl’s innocence before she hangs for murder.

While I was aware that I’d once more crashed midway into a series, this isn’t a major deal as Miley is far too adept for keep her readers floundering. Instead I quickly bonded with Jessie, a sparky character with plenty of spirit who is embracing the opportunities Hollywood has presented for her. It is also the perfect setting for all sorts of mayhem and murder.

As with all the best historical whodunits, Miley uses the adventure to present us with a slice of Jessie’s life. While I cared about seeing the mystery solved, I was every bit as involved with Jessie’s ongoing concerns, such as her wardrobe choices, her problematic romance and interest in the Hollywood gossip. Miley vividly recreates the 1920s world for us, from the clothes and the Hollywood glamour and the thrill of drinking forbidden alcoholic drinks.

 

Tackling my TBR
In a bid to try and reduce the teetering pile by my bed, I’ve decided to report back on how I’m doing in the hope that it will nudge me to read more of them. Last month, I’m pleased to say, I managed to read four books languishing on my To Be Read pile:

Penric’s Mission – a Penric and Desdemona novella by Lois McMaster Bujold
Learned Penric, a sorcerer and divine of the Bastard’s Order, travels across the sea to sunlit Cedonia on penricsmissionhis first covert diplomatic mission, to attempt to secure the services of a disaffected Cedonian general for the Duke of Adria. However, nothing is as it seems and Penric is forced to use his own wits and resources. As well as those of the demon that lives alongside him in his body…
Firstly, avoid reading the blurb – it gives away far too much of the story and given this is a novella, there simply isn’t time for the narrative arc to recover from such a reveal. I’ve included a modified version that doesn’t contain any spoilers.

Fairly rapidly, Penric’s mission is in trouble and from then on, he is forced to think on his feet. I really like the way Bujold sets this up as one kind of story – and then suddenly changes everything around. I had intended to begin this book this morning and break off to complete it later tonight – except that once I started it, I couldn’t put it down until I’d reached the end. Once more, Penric’s wry humour, his self-effacing manner and the real danger he and his companions find themselves in hooked me in and wouldn’t let go.

 

Bloodrush – Book 1 of The Scarlet Star trilogy by Ben Galley
bloodrush“Magick ain’t pretty, it ain’t stars and sparkles. Magick is dirty. It’s rough. Raw. It’s blood and guts and vomit. You hear me?”
When Prime Lord Hark is found in a pool of his own blood on the steps of his halls, Tonmerion Hark finds his world not only turned upside down, but inside out. His father’s last will and testament forces him west across the Iron Ocean, to the very brink of the Endless Land and all civilisation. They call it Wyoming.
This is a story of murder and family.
In the dusty frontier town of Fell Falls, there is no silverware, no servants, no plush velvet nor towering spires. Only dust, danger, and the railway. Tonmerion has only one friend to help him escape the torturous heat and unravel his father’s murder. A faerie named Rhin. A twelve-inch tall outcast of his own kind.
This is a story of blood and magick.
But there are darker things at work in Fell Falls, and not just the railwraiths or the savages. Secrets lurk in Tonmerion’s bloodline. Secrets that will redefine this young Hark.
This is a story of the edge of the world.

I immediately liked the premise of a fantasy set in the Wild West as the railroad is being built and very much hoped the book would live up to the punchy blurb. It does. Merion is a really appealing protagonist – a suddenly orphaned thirteen-year-old, who is uprooted from all he knows and shipped out to the wilds of the frontier to live with an aunt he’s never met.

 

Synners by Pat Cadigan
See above – this offering also had languished on my TBR pile FAR too long…

 

The Banished Craft – Book 1 of The Shkode trilogy by E.D.E. Bell
Struggling to solve the mystery of her parents’ murder, Cor comes across a mystery much deeper—a thebanishedcraftsecret society who predicted that someday their world would be devastated. That time is now. In a world where women are not allowed to read, live alone, or pursue knowledge Cor presses forward, discovering a new magic and the power to wield it. A world away, Atesh works in the Imperial Labs, devoting his study to the turmoil destroying his home and endangering dragonkind. Instead he discovers a long-hidden truth. Humans are real.

One of the reasons why I wanted to return to this world is its richness and sheer quirky difference. I’m used to worlds being endangered by maniacal gods/powerful mages/artefacts – I can’t recall another world risking extinction because the child of a powerful being accidentally touched it… However, any impulse to burst out laughing is steadily eroded as we become engrossed in the lives of our protagonists on the sundered worlds. Bell handles the epic nature of her narrative really effectively, as both societies – stressed by the environmental upheaval – start to fall apart.

So that’s where I am so far on Tackling my TBR challenge. Once again, November was a far better reading month than I’d expected and my Discovery Challenge target, which was twelve books now looks stupidly unambitious, but then I’d expected to be doing a great deal more writing this year. How are you getting on with your reading challenges now the year is rapidly drawing to a close?

Review of KINDLE Ebook Penric and the Shaman – a World of Five Gods novella by Lois McMaster Bujold

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After recently reading Penric’s Demon I decided to treat myself to more Penric goodness and so plunged straight back into this world.

penricandtheshamanIn this novella set in The World of the Five Gods and four years after the events in Penric’s Demon, Penric is a divine of the Bastard’s Order as well as a sorcerer and scholar, living in the palace where the Princess-Archdivine holds court. His scholarly work is interrupted when the Archdivine agrees to send Penric, in his role as sorcerer, to accompany a “Locator” of the Father’s Order, assigned to capture Inglis, a runaway shaman charged with the murder of his best friend. However, the situation they discover in the mountains is far more complex than expected. Penric’s roles as sorcerer, strategist, and counselor are all called upon before the end.

Penric is now a noted scholar and has learnt to live alongside his demon he calls Desdemona. It is enjoyable to see his growth in confidence and how he is still having to negotiate the personalities within him as he deals with this ongoing crisis. Bujold’s deft characterisation comes into its own as we also see slices of this adventure in the viewpoint of Inglis and the locator sent to track him down. Given this is a novella in multiple viewpoint, the story needs to get cracking – and yet at no time does the pace seem rushed or the characterisation thin. As you’d expect with a story set in an established series, the worldbuilding is pinsharp with weather, landscape and settlements pinging off the page.
While this story is about death and possible murder, there is a lot of humour. Penric copes with his demon by use of snark – or maybe it is the demon’s preferred choice… it’s not always easy to tell. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Penric through the eyes of those interacting with him, as well as getting the benefit of seeing his own point of view – which had rather more internal dialogue than is usual.

As ever with Bujold, no one is shown to be perfectly good or all bad. Her characters are always a blend with their own agendas and foibles, which makes for an intelligent, nuanced story. As for the ending – it wasn’t a huge surprise, but then it wasn’t supposed to be. Although I did hold my breath several times – you can never completely relax with this author as she is quite capable of taking a story on an unexpected left turn, leaving you scrabbling to catch up.

Himself, who is a solid fan of all things Bujold, informs me that she is in the process of writing another slice of Penric’s adventures. I’m delighted and if you’d like a taster of what this talented, multi-award author has to offer, then look out this novella, preferably after reading Penric’s Demon although you won’t flounder overly if you don’t. It comes highly recommended.
9/10

Shoot for the Moon Challenge 2016 – November Roundup

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After setting some crazy writing goals with my writing partner, Mhairi Simpson, moonway back in the dying throes of 2015, how am I doing?

Family issues rather ambushed me and I had little mental energy or necessary headspace required to cope with my demanding rewrite. On a more positive note, I gave a talk at West Sussex Writers on the joy of writing reviews and posting them online and my Creative Writing course gathered momentum, while Sally and I finally sorted out Tim’s syllabus and have drawn up a coherent schedule of work for him for the next two years.

• During November, I read eleven books. Again, it’s been a great reading month. I really enjoyed songsofseraphinethe wonderful the children’s book Clover Moon by Jacqueline Wilson, cyberpunk adventure Synners by Pat Cadigan, Bloodrush by Ben Galley and E.D.E. Bell’s penricsmissionThe Banished Craft – however Songs of Seraphina by Jude Houghton and Penric’s Mission by Lois McMaster Bujold are my standout reads for the month.
Challenge – To review a minimum of 100 books during 2016 and widen my reading to include more authors new to me. I fulfilled this challenge in August, but I am continuing to read and review more enjoyable, exciting books.

 

• I am currently stranded in the boggy mid-book bit of Miranda’s Tempest. Realistically, I don’t expect to get much further this side of Christmas, but there’s no point in getting in a spin about it. I’ll continue as and when I can manage it.
Challenge – To continue to submit my work.

 

• I’ve continued to improve my fitness with Pilates and Fitstep classes and we’re now learning extra steps for the jive and tango – so much fun … thanks to the marvellous Louisa Jones, an inspired and very patient teacher. I hadn’t quite reached my target weight during November, but it was very close and I am continuing to improve my fitness and stamina.
Challenge – To continue to improve my fitness.

Another month where nothing has gone to plan… Oh well, that’s Life I suppose. I wrote just under 17,000 words on my blog during November, nearly 6,000 words on my teaching admin and just over 10,00 words on my rewrite of Miranda’s Tempest, bringing my total for the month to just under 33,000 words.

How are you getting on with your targets now the year is drawing to an end? Are you anywhere close to fulfilling them?

Sunday Post – 13th November 2016

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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.

It’s been another hectic week – a sentence I think I shall have to start to pin on the beginning of this post. On Monday, Sally and I attended a local school where they are using the CoPE syllabus we are intending to use with Tim, the fourteen-year-old with autism I tutor. A couple of teachers generously gave up their time to talk us through the pros and cons of the system – the biggest downside being the amount of admin it entails. I was teaching Creative Writing on Monday and Tuesday as usual, though classes were significantly depleted this week by various germlins hitting my students particularly a nasty cough that is going the rounds. On Wednesday, I had a planning meeting with Sally, where we worked out how to best apply the CoPE syllabus to Tim, then in the evening I attended my fortnightly writing group where once more I received valuable feedback on my rewrite of Miranda’s Tempest.

On Thursday, my mate Mhairi came round for the day and in amongst talking about the life, the universe and swapping ideas and advice on our various writing ails, helped me set up the necessary technology for a talk I gave on Thursday evening about the joys of reviewing books and how to share those reviews online to the West Sussex Writers’ monthly meeting. It seemed to go down well, and afterwards Mhairi came back and we talked waaay into the night.

On Friday morning I was teaching Tim, then in the afternoon over to Worthing for a meeting with two writing friends as we are planning a project for 2017. I can’t say much about it right now, but hopefully will be doing so in due course… Yesterday we went down to Ringwood for a gathering of the clan, as it was my father-in-law’s 80th birthday. It was lovely catching up with family members and great to see the birthday boy in such fine fettle after his cancer diagnosis last year.

This week I have read:
penricsmissionPenric’s Mission – Book 3 of the Penric and Desdemona novella series by Lois McMaster Bujold
Learned Penric, a sorcerer and divine of the Bastard’s Order, travels across the sea to sunlit Cedonia on his first covert diplomatic mission, to attempt to secure the services of a disaffected Cedonian general for the Duke of Adria. However, nothing is as it seems…

Do avoid the blurting blurb at all costs as it will really spoil the opening act of this plot-twisting treat. Once more Bujold provides a cracking adventure with a side-order of wry wit and a delightful protagonist.

 

The Silver Tide – Book 3 of The Copper Cat series by Jen Williams
thesilvertideTales of the Black Feather Three and their exploits abound far and wide, and Wydrin of Crosshaven, Lord Aaron Frith and Sir Sebastian have become sell swords in demand. Having foiled powerful mages and evil magic, they now face a challenge unlike any before – in the form of Wydrin’s mother. Devinia the Red, notorious pirate and captain of the Poison Chalice, is intent on finding the fabled treasure hidden within the jungles of the cursed island of Euriale. She needs the skills of her daughter Wydrin and her companions to get there, and our heroes cannot resist the lure of coin and adventure. But no explorer has returned from the heart of the island, and it’s not long before the Three find themselves in the clutches of peril. Deep within the island of the gods, there are remnants of forces best left undisturbed…

It was a treat meeting Wydrin’s mother after following her madcap escapades through two previous books – and explains a lot. Williams’ gleedark, adventure-filled style hasn’t calmed down one jot with this third addition to this series, I’m delighted to say.

 

An Empire Asunder – Book 2 of The Scourwind Legacy series by Evan Currie
The coup that won traitor General Corian the Scourwind throne has been overturned, but his ongoing anempireasunderrebellion has left the empire divided. Lydia’s birthright regained, she adjusts to her role as empress at war, while Brennan begins training as an elite Cadreman soldier. With tensions rising between the empire and the Alliance, this momentary lull seems to portend a gathering storm…

I thoroughly enjoyed the start of this intriguing series that reads more like epic fantasy than a sci fi adventure and this sequel is equally filled with adventure and mayhem – fortunately, looking through his publishing history, it appears that Currie writes fast. Yippee!

 

My posts last week:
Sunday Post – 6th November

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch

Teaser Tuesday – featuring The Silver Tide by Jen Williams

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Silver Road – Book 2 of The Shifting Tides series by James Maxwell

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Penric’s Mission – Book 3 of Penric and Desdemona novella series by Lois McMaster Bujold

Friday Faceoff – Falling off the rails… featuring Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett

Review of Frontier – an Epsilon Sector novella by Janet Edwards

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:
Advertising Books Online: Getting the Best Value for your Money https://kristentwardowski.wordpress.com/2016/11/10/advertising-books-online-getting-the-best-value-for-your-money/ A brilliant, informative article for indie authors trying to work out where to spend their hard-earned cash on publicity.

Brilliant Book Title #61 https://librarystaffpicks.wordpress.com/2016/11/11/brilliant-book-titles-61/ The award-winning Ballyroan library blog has nailed it again – and friends and family please note – there will be a TANTRUM on Christmas morning if this book is not in my Christmas stocking…

Romeo and/or Juliet (A Chooseable Path Adventure) Book Review https://thetattooedbookgeek.wordpress.com/2016/11/11/romeo-andor-juliet-a-chooseable-path-adventure-book-review/ Drew at The Tattooed Book Geek wrote this quirky, enjoyable review about this enjoyable, quirky book. With Christmas looming, I thought I’d feature yet another book that might hit the spot with family members…

Leonard Cohen – Musician and Poet https://jeanreinhardt.wordpress.com/2016/11/11/leonard-cohen-musician-and-poet/ As you must already know, I’m a regular visitor to this site and Jean’s tribute to Leonard Cohen, along with this amazing video which I keep revisiting, is not to be missed.

Waterford Walls 2016 https://inesemjphotography.com/2016/11/11/waterford-walls-2016/
Inessa is a gifted photographer, who regularly takes us on wonderful walks through the lens of her camera. This is the latest offering – enjoy…

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

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Penric’s Mission – a Novella in the World of the Five Gods

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I’ve had the delight of reading the two previous novellas in this series – Penric’s Demon and Penric and the Shaman. So when Himself said that Penric’s Mission was about to be released, it was a no-brainer that we’d scoop it up.

penricsmissionLearned Penric, a sorcerer and divine of the Bastard’s Order, travels across the sea to sunlit Cedonia on his first covert diplomatic mission, to attempt to secure the services of a disaffected Cedonian general for the Duke of Adria. However, nothing is as it seems and Penric is forced to use his own wits and resources. As well as those of the demon that lives alongside him in his body…

Firstly, avoid reading the blurb – it gives away far too much of the story and given this is a novella, there simply isn’t time for the narrative arc to recover from such a reveal. I’ve included a modified version that doesn’t contain any spoilers. Fairly rapidly, Penric’s mission is in trouble and from then on, he is forced to think on his feet.

I really like the way Bujold sets this up as one kind of story – and then suddenly changes everything around. I had intended to begin this book this morning and break off to complete it later tonight – except that once I started it, I couldn’t put it down until I’d reached the end. Once more, Penric’s wry humour, his self-effacing manner and the real danger he and his companions find themselves in hooked me in and wouldn’t let go.

A significant amount of time has elapsed between Penric and the Shaman and this offering – and we learn of what has befallen Penric during that interim as the adventure unfolds. Bujold manages to unpack the plot, throwing out small extras for those who have read the previous books, yet keeping the story sufficiently accessible so that newcomers to her world can also enjoy it. Nobody does it better – but then not many writers have had more practice at garnering new converts to a long-running series than Bujold, who is best known for her hugely successful Miles Vorkosigan series – see my review of Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen.

Once again, she wraps up the story leaving me a tad wrung out and completely satisfied with the outcome. And hoping that we will get another slice of Penric in due course…
10/10

Review of KINDLE Ebook Penric’s Demon – A World of Five Gods novella by Lois McMaster Bujold

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Anyone who has read my blog will know that I am a huge fan of Bujold’s work – see my review of Cryoburn. And this short offering is set in the world she created with The Curse of Chalion, Paladin of Souls and The Hallowed Hunt. It’s a measure of the mess I’m in with my TBR mountain that gems like The Hallowed Hunt and Penric’s Demon exist in there unread.

penricsdemonOn his way to his betrothal, young Lord Penric comes upon a riding accident with an elderly lady on the ground, her maidservant and guardsmen distraught. As he approaches to help, he discovers that the lady is a Temple divine, servant to the five gods of this world. Her avowed god is The Bastard, “master of all disasters out of season”, and with her dying breath she bequeaths her mysterious powers to Penric. From that moment on, Penric’s life is irreversibly changed, and his life is in danger from those who envy or fear him.

It’s a great premise and Bujold handles it beautifully. During the rest of the story, we witness the unworldly, poverty-stricken younger son grapple with the challenge of facing an ancient demon used to residing within highly trained women. I love the way she unfolds the story and I get lost in her worlds in a way that rarely happens with anyone else. There are no bells and whistles with Bujold’s writing style, nevertheless its smooth unobtrusiveness doesn’t so much hook as harpoon me into her story – it was almost physically painful to put down the book before finishing it.

Penric is very well handled – it would have been easy to write him as an unknowing innocent or some appalled victim flailing around helplessly, but while he is inexperienced and naïve, he is also intelligent. I love the little details she adds – the demon’s fascination with Penric’s body, for instance. Bujold’s wry humour regularly surfaces throughout this novella, so that along with the growing tension and danger I also had moments where I found myself grinning.

The supporting cast are also vividly depicted and this world leaps off the pages as only worlds can when an author knows and loves an establishing setting. So although this isn’t a long book, it covers a lot of ground in a short space of time and while I was aware I was burning through it fast, it didn’t suddenly come to an abrupt halt just as it was getting going – an ongoing issue I have with some poorly paced novellas.

As you might have gathered, I LOVED this one. It’s a gem and before the month is over, I’ve promised myself the pleasure of sitting down with the sequel Penric and the Shaman – and it’s promises like this that make Life so very sweet.
9/10

Sunday Post – 16th October

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

Again, this has been a far less frenetic week. I finally completed the line edit on Netted and sent it off. 100_5156Yay! Fingers crossed that it meets with approval… Fitstep and pilates classes are going very well – I’m 100_5166delighted to find I continue to be able to do exercises which a year ago, I couldn’t get near. Himself and I went for a lovely walk last Sunday and were inspired to repeat this during the week, while still enjoying the amazing weather. These pics were taken last Tuesday morning during a wonderful walk along the beach.

On Thursday, Mhairi came over again and spent the day. During the evening we attended the West Sussex Writers monthly talk, given this time around by the awesome Ben Galley who came to tell us all bengalleyabout self-publishing. He took us for a brisk gallop through how to get hold of effective editors, demystified the process of buying and using ISBNs, gave top tips on how to get the best out of a cover artist – along with a slew of facts and figures on the advantages of going the indie route. As he has successfully published two fiction series, a how-to book, a graphic novel and four children’s books, as well as running a consultancy on self publishing, he was very well placed to answer all the questions asked about the subject. It was one of the most informative talks we’ve ever had at West Sussex Writers. To round it off, Caron Garrod – one of my students – read out her winning entry in the WSW Novel Opening Competition judged by Jane Lythell. It was a marvellous evening.

This week-end I’m grannying again as the children are once more with us – it great to be able to see them on a regular basis, so we get a chance to catch up on how they are getting on at school. As well as keeping tabs on their latest hobbies and enthusiasms – it all seems to change so much at their age…

This week I have read:
Counterpart – Book 2 of the Machinations series by Hayley Stone
Commander Rhona Long understands survival better than most. Killed in combat, she was brought backcounterpart to life using her DNA, and she’s forged a new, even more powerful identity. Now the leader of the resistance, she’s determined to ensure the machines are shut down for good. But victory is elusive. The machines have a new technology designed to overcome humanity’s most advanced weaponry. Despite Rhona’s peacekeeping efforts, former nations are feuding over resources as old power struggles resurface. Worse, someone inside the resistance is sabotaging the human cause—someone who, from all appearances, seems to be Rhona . . . or her exact replica.
This gripping apocalyptic adventure has produced the most interesting, nuanced examination of what it means to be a clone that I’ve read in a long, long time.

 

Knights of the Borrowed Dark by Dave Rudden
knightsoftheborroweddarkDenizen Hardwick is an orphan, and his life is, well, normal. Sure, in storybooks orphans are rescued from drudgery when they discover they are a wizard or a warrior or a prophesied king. But this is real life—orphans are just kids without parents. At least that’s what Denizen thought. . . On a particularly dark night, the gates of Crosscaper Orphanage open to a car that almost growls with power. And on the journey Denizen discovers there are things out there that by rights should only exist in storybooks – except they’re all too real.
I really enjoyed this gripping children’s book, where the knights are skilled in magic and sword fighting, but traumatised and battle-weary and thirteen-year-old Denizen is suitably chippy. And we are never allowed to forget that violence and revenge exact a very high price…

 

So Many Boots So Little Time – Book 3 of The MidAdventures of Miss Lilly by Kalan Chapman Lloyd
Small-town lawyer Lilly Atkins has calmed down. She’s doing yoga, her hair is relatively tame, and she somanybootshasn’t shot anyone in a while. But with bad boy Cash Stetson out of rehab, former FBI agent-turned-attorney Spencer Locke dogging her steps, and a ghost from her past who just won’t go away, her trigger finger is starting to itch.
This offering is a real change of pace and genre for me – something I felt I needed. The emphasis on clothes and looks was slightly exasperating and I hadn’t appreciated just how much of the plot was devoted to Lilly’s love life. That said, it was a charming, light-hearted read that put a smile on my face.

 

Penric’s Demon – a World of the Five Gods novella by Lois McMaster Bujold
penricsdemonOn his way to his betrothal, young Lord Penric comes upon a riding accident with an elderly lady on the ground, her maidservant and guardsmen distraught. As he approaches to help, he discovers that the lady is a Temple divine, servant to the five gods of this world. Her avowed god is The Bastard, “master of all disasters out of season”, and with her dying breath she bequeaths her mysterious powers to Penric. From that moment on, Penric’s life is irreversibly changed, and his life is in danger from those who envy or fear him.
I’m a massive fan of this author’s writing – and this is a treat. I loved this one – classic Bujold. And the best news of all – there’s another novella in this series which is on my TBR list waiting for me to get to it…

 

My posts last week:
Sunday Post – 9th October

Shoot for the Moon Challenge 2016 – September Roundup

Teaser Tuesday – featuring So Many Boots, So Little Time by Kalan Chapman Lloyd

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Counterpart – Book 2 of the Machinations series by Hayley Stone

Favourite Time Travelling Novels – Part 1

Friday Faceoff – There was once a princess who lived in the highest tower… featuring Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Review of Knights of the Borrowed Dark by Dave Rudden

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

Five Interesting Facts about Samuel Pepys https://interestingliterature.com/2016/10/14/five-fascinating-facts-about-samuel-pepys/ Those marvellous folks at Interesting Literature came up with yet another fascinating article.

Reading in Bed https://randombookmuses.com/2016/10/14/musing-reading-in-bed/
An ongoing problem in my life…

Writers, Please Eat a Snickers and Chill the Hell OUT – Sincerely Writers https://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/2016/10/13/writers-please-eat-a-snickers-and-chill-the-hell-out-sincerely-readers/ Kristen Lamb calls time on the unpleasant, ranting behaviour on social media

Keeping Children Safe With Technology – https://wandaluthman.wordpress.com/2016/10/10/keeping-children-safe-with-technology/ Wanda Luthman warns of a new, worrying development that can cause havoc in the wrong hands – Burn Note

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

Five SFF books that Made Me Laugh – Part 1

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I saw this list on the Top Ten Tuesday meme and couldn’t resist, but am a tad pressed for time, so I’ve rounded up five – with the intention of trawling through my reading lists and finding the rest when there are more hours in the day. So in no particular order, here are five science fiction and fantasy books that put a grin on my face.

Hogfather – Book 20 of the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett

hogfatherIf I’d been feeling a bit lazier, I think I could have more or less filled this list with Terry Pratchett offerings – or at least padded it out a lot more. The likes of Moving Pictures, The Colour of Magic, Mort and Equal Rites all had me howling with laughter at times.

There are those who believe and those who don’t. Through the ages, superstition has had its uses. Nowhere more so than in the Discworld where it’s helped to maintain the status quo. Anything that undermines superstition has to be viewed with some caution. There may be consequences, particularly on the last night of the year when the time is turning. When those consequences turn out to be the end of the world, you need to be prepared. You might even want more standing between you and oblivion than a mere slip of a girl – even if she has looked Death in the face on numerous occasions…

I had to choose Hogfather, because the scene where Death is handing out presents in the department store grotto never fails to make me giggle every single time I read it.

 

civilcampaignA Civil Campaign – Book 12 of the Miles Vorkosigan series by Lois McMaster Bujold

Miles Vorkosigan has a problem: unrequited love for the beautiful widow Ekaterin Vorsoisson, violently allergic to marriage after her first exposure. If a frontal assault won’t do, Miles thinks, try subterfuge. He has a cunning plan… Lord Mark Vorkosigan, Miles’ brother, also has a problem: his love has just become unrequited again. But he has a cunning plan… Lord Ivan Vorpatril, Mile’s cousin, has a problem: unrequited love in general. But he too has a cunning plan…

I’ve mentioned before that Bujold covers a wide spread of sub-genres within in this science fiction adventure series and this one is definitely a comedy of manners. And in places, it is hilarious – especially during a particular formal banquet…

 

Date Night at Union Station – Book 1 of the EarthCent Ambassador series by E.M. datenightFoner

This quirky series of novellas set on a space station by indie author E.M. Foner was recommended to me by Himself after I was a tad wrung out after a rather gruelling apocalyptic sci fi novel. I wanted something lighter and amusing – see my review here. This is definitely it.

Kelly Frank is EarthCent’s top diplomat on Union Station, but her job description has always been a bit vague. When she receives a gift subscription to the dating service that’s rumored to be powered by the same benevolent artificial intelligence that runs the huge station, Kelly decides to swallow her pride and give it a shot. But as her dates go from bad to worse, she can only hope that the supposedly omniscient AI is planning a happy ending.

It’s no surprise that once he published this on Amazon, he was flooded with requests for a follow-up – which he duly wrote. The setting is intriguing, the cast of characters suitably eccentric and Foner’s offbeat style really works. I loved it and will be getting hold another of these little gems.

 

mars evacueesMars Evacuees – Book 1 of the Mars Evacuees series by Sophia McDougall

The adventures of Alice Dare entranced me from the moment I picked up this appealing offering and has gone on doing so. I have reread this one to the grandchildren and it made them snigger with laughter, too – see my review here.

When I found out I was being evacuated to Mars, I took it pretty well. And, despite everything that happened to me and my friends afterwards, I’d do it all again. Because until you’ve been shot at, pursued by terrifying aliens, taught maths by a laser-shooting robot goldfish and tried to save the galaxy, I don’t think you can say that you’ve really lived.

As well as being funny, it is also a cracking adventure story featuring one of the most memorable and appealing heroines I have ever read. If you like splashes of humour in amongst the mayhem, then give this one a go – it really is too good to leave to the children.

 

Vampire State of Mind by Jane Loveringvampirestate

Urban fantasy often has a chirpy thread of humour running through it, which I always enjoy – but Lovering has provided a heroine that memorably bounces off the page and has me recalling the book with affection – see my review here.

Jessica Grant knows vampires only too well. She runs the York Council tracker programme making sure that Otherworlders are all where they should be, keeps the filing in order and drinks far too much coffee. To Jess, vampires are annoying and arrogant and far too sexy for their own good, particularly her ex-colleague Sil, who’s now in charge of Otherworld York.

But when a demon turns up and threatens not just Jess but the whole world order, she and Sil are forced to work together, and when Jess turns out to be the key to saving the world it puts a very different slant on their relationship. The stakes are high. They are also very, very pointy and Jess isn’t afraid to use them, even on the vampire that she’s rather afraid she’s falling in love with.

This is urban fantasy at its smart, snappy best – I particularly liked the Brit take on this sub-genre, with the reflection that there’s nothing so dire that a Hobnob can’t make better…

Have you read any of the above and found them amusing? What SFF books have made you grin or laugh?

The Spring Book Tag

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Daffodils @ Highdown (6)

I discovered this very appropriate tag, while reading Lizzie Baldwins’s fabulous My Little Book Blog and she came across it at The Reader and the Chef. So this my response…

 

1. What’s your Spring TBR?planetfall
Emma Newman’s Planetfall – I bought it in the depths of winter when thoroughly fed up and now green shoots are shooting and I’ve completed all the admin for my latest Creative Writing course, I reckon I deserve a treat.

 

Everyheartadoorway2. If someone asked you for a Spring release recommendation, what would it be?
I’ve read some cracking books this year, but one of the books published at the beginning of April is the novella Every Heart A Doorway by Seanan McGuire. I loved the pitch perfect pacing and the wonderful poignant tone of this story.

 

3. Which two books are you eagerly awaiting that releases within the next two centralstationmonths?
I have on my Kindle the arc of Central Station by Lavie Tidhar which looks fabulous (thank you NetGalley!) and I’m really excited about reading this one. And the other book I’m dying to get my hands on is Lesley Thomson’s latest crime thriller The House With No Rooms – and the bonus – I’ve been invited to the book launch up in London!

 

fuzzy nation4. Which character would make a great Easter bunny?
The fuzzy from John Scalzi’s Fuzzy Nation would make a fantastic Easter bunny. Apart from looking cute and enjoying interacting with friendly humans, the fuzzys are also smart, so would be good at hiding the Easter eggs.

 

 

5. What book makes you think of Spring?astra
The book that brings Spring to mind is Astra by Naomi Foyle – the book starts during springtime and young Astra is very in tune with her surroundings – as well as that, the beautiful green cover and the apparently cosy surroundings all seem very fresh and friendly…

thephilosopherkings6. Name a cover with flowers on it
My book cover with flowers on is The Philosopher Kings by Jo Walton. It’s the second book in her  Thessaly series, which explores the ideas that Plato expounded in The Republic, at the behest of Apollo, who is part of this experiment, and his sister Athene, who devised it. Yes… I know. It sounds barmy – but it really works and is a remarkable series. The cover also is a beautiful spring green colour, which adds to the seasonal feel.

7. Which two characters would you go on an Easter egg hunt with?
Chocolate often gives me migraines, so Easter is a tricky time for me. I’m mostly very good at not eating it, but it would be handy to have a couple of folks who would be both really good at finding the eggs before me and possessing a huge appetite for chocolate. I reckon Harry Potter and Ron Weasley would fit the bill nicely.

8. What is your favourite Spring bookish activity to do?
Curl up on a sofa in a pool of sunshine and read in front of the fire – it’s still far too cold to venture outside to read. I also regularly tell myself I’ll tidy up the sprawling TBR mass of books by my bed and put them into some kind of order, but I probably won’t get around to it just yet. So I’ll continue working up to it, while curled up reading in front of said fire…

9. Which book did you enjoy that had a Spring cover?daughterofsmokeandbone
Well… there’s this fantastic cover of Laini Taylor’s first book in her Daughter of Smoke and Bone series. With feathers that represent the Easter chick… And if you’re unconvinced, can I just mention that books featuring space and fantastic world generally aren’t portrayed in vibrant spring colours, or heaving with flowers. I happen to LOVE this cover, it makes me want to stroke it and coo… And the book is awesome, so I stand by my choice.

10. Who is your favourite contemporary author?
There are some amazing writers, whose skill I admire – C.J. Cherryh is right up there, as is Lois McMaster Bujold and then there is the mighty talent that is Jo Walton, who takes on a completely different aspect of speculative fiction with each new series. And absolutely nails it with something extraordinary and special. Yep. It would have to be Jo Walton…

Books I Wish I’d Reviewed…

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I read a number of these a long time ago, before the internet existed or I even considered there’d be a time when I would share my love of books and reading with numbers of other people who also take part in this most solitary of hobbies. And the rest are books that I read before I really got bitten by the reviewing bug. Either way, I occasionally tell myself that I’ll go back and reread them some day to write the review. But if I’m honest – I probably won’t because I generally don’t reread books, in case the second time around they disappoint. In which case, I will have gained two miserable memories – the one of revisiting a favourite book and finding it isn’t that impressive after all, but even more devastatingly – it will also have smirched the lovely glow around my recollection of the delight when I read the book first time around.

In no particular order…

 

Cider With Rose by Laurie Lee
Cider with Rosie is a wonderfully vivid memoir of childhood in a remote Cotswold village, a villagecider with rosie before electricity or cars, a timeless place on the verge of change. Growing up amongst the fields and woods and characters of the place, Laurie Lee depicts a world that is both immediate and real and belongs to a now-distant past.

I read this when I was fourteen and immediately fell in love with the book and the depiction of a lost time in rural Gloucestershire. Much later, when pregnant with my daughter, I encountered Lee’s essay on when his daughter was born and cried as I read it. I was probably a tad hormonal, but it is beautifully written…

 

The Go-Between by L.P. Hartleythegobetween
“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” Summering with a fellow schoolboy on a great English estate, Leo, the hero of L. P. Hartley’s finest novel, encounters a world of unimagined luxury. But when his friend’s beautiful older sister enlists him as the unwitting messenger in her illicit love affair, the aftershocks will be felt for years.

Another wonderfully written book – a real mixture of humour and bitter poignancy and the ending is a shock. The dialogue is a masterclass in writing subtext and if you haven’t ever read it, do so. Set before WWI, it is another lost world, where poor little Leo is adrift in a social shark tank and is shamefully exploited by people who should have known better.

 

requiemforawrenRequiem for a Wren by Neville Shute
Sidelined by a wartime injury, fighter pilot Alan Duncan reluctantly returns to his parents’ remote sheep station in Australia to take the place of his brother Bill, who died a hero in the war. But his homecoming is marred by the suicide of his parents’ parlormaid, of whom they were very fond. Alan soon realizes that the dead young woman is not the person she pretended to be…

I’d studied A Town Like Alice at school and loved it, so went looking for everything Shute wrote, which was a fair amount. I loved most of it – but Requiem for a Wren stole a particular portion of my heart, as the story depicted all too clearly the personal cost of war. If you ever encounter a battered Neville Shute novel in a second-hand shop – they occur with surprisingly regularity – scoop it up. There is a solid reason why he was such a popular author for thirty-odd years in the last century.

 

Chocky by John Wyndhamchocky
Matthew, they thought, was just going through a phase of talking to himself. And, like many parents, they waited for him to get over it, but it started to get worse. Mathew’s conversations with himself grew more and more intense – it was like listening to one end of a telephone conversation while someone argued, cajoled and reasoned with another person you couldn’t hear. Then Matthew started doing things he couldn’t do before, like counting in binary-code mathematics. So he told them about Chocky – the person who lived in his head.

Another wonderful author, who is famous for The Day of the Triffids, but wrote a number of other really enjoyable science fiction stories. Again, I loved them all – but Chocky was a particular favourite.

 

rideratthegateRider at the Gate – Book 1 of the Nighthorses duology by C.J. Cherryh
Stranded on a distant planet that abounds with fertile farmland, human colonists appear to be in paradise. But all the native animals communicate by telepathy, projecting images that drive humans mad. Only Nighthorses stand between civilization and madness. When a flare of human emotion spreads to all the horses, chaos erupts.

I fell in love with C.J. Cherryh’s writing from the first sentence – and this is her at her unbeatable best. I’d also include the sequel Cloud’s Rider, which is another gem.

 

Sundiver – Book 1 of the Uplift Saga by David Brinsundiver
No species has ever reached for the stars without the guidance of a patron–except perhaps mankind. Did some mysterious race begin the uplift of humanity aeons ago? Circling the sun, under the caverns of Mercury, Expedition Sundiver prepares for the most momentous voyage in history–a journey into the boiling inferno of the sun.

I loved this take on what might befall Earth creatures should we encounter alien cultures – and how terrestrial species other than humans might fare.

 

fallingfreeFalling Free – Book 4 of the Vorkosigan series by Lois McMaster Bujold
Leo Graf was an effective engineer…Safety Regs weren’t just the rule book he swore by; he’d helped write them. All that changed on his assignment to the Cay Habitat. Leo was profoundly uneasy with the corporate exploitation of his bright new students till that exploitation turned to something much worse. He hadn’t anticipated a situation where the right thing to do was neither save, nor in the rules… Leo Graf adopted 1000 quaddies now all he had to do was teach them to be free

Another talented speculative fiction author, whose groundbreaking writing has taken me to wonderful worlds. I have reviewed a number of the Miles Vorkosigan adventures – but this particular story featuring the quaddies has always had a special place in my heart…

What about you – have you any books that you wish you had reviewed? Or books you dare not reread in case they aren’t quite as wonderful as you recall?