Tag Archives: monsters

Review of INDIE EBOOK Under Ordshaw – Book 1 of The Ordshaw series by Phil Williams #Brainfluffbookreview #UnderOrdshawbookreview

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I read this book as Lynn from Lynn’s Book Blog recommended it and I very much liked the look of the cover. I was also in the mood for an entertaining urban fantasy with a twist.

Pax is one rent cheque away from the unforgiving streets of Ordshaw. After her stash is stolen, her hunt for the thief unearths a book of nightmares and a string of killers, and she stands to lose much more than her home. There’s something lurking under her city. Knowing it’s there could get you killed.
I’m not going to claim that the premise is anything particularly original – it isn’t. Ordshaw is a city with a dark underbelly where lethal creatures inhabit the network of tunnels hidden beneath the streets. Most people, particularly those who are out and about during the day, don’t have any inkling about the battle going on between the creatures and humanity – but those who are largely out at night have more of an idea that something isn’t quite right. Pax falls into this category, given she is a card player who spends most of her time working at night.

However, for me she isn’t the most interesting character in this book. Cano Casaria, an agent for the Ministry of Environmental Energy, in theory should be one of the good guys. In fact, the character seemed very familiar to me – driven by a desire to keep humanity safe; possessing a fanatical loathing of the terrible creatures wreaking havoc; determined to ensure that their agenda doesn’t prevail. In many other hands, Casaria would be the protagonist. But he’s not. While it’s his efforts that initially involve Pax in the whole business, his brutal methods characterised by the end absolutely justifying any means repel her, particularly after she encounters Letty the tiny fairy, whom Casaria cripples.

It is the interplay between these characters that had me turning the pages wanting to know what would happen next. While some of the monsters are definitely unpleasant and there is a great deal we don’t yet know about them, it wasn’t the battle between them and humanity that powered the story, but the rivalries and relationships formed between those who were trying to stop them.

In making this the focus of the story, Williams has succeeded in giving this urban fantasy a fresh twist so that while it started quite slowly, as it gathered pace I found it difficult to put down. Recommended for fans of well-written urban fantasy, who’d appreciate something a little different. While I obtained a review copy of Under Ordshaw from the author, the views I have expressed are my honest opinion of the book.
9/10

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Teaser Tuesday – 26th March, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #TeaserTuesday

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Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
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:

The Poison Song – Book 3 of the Winnowing Flame trilogy by Jen Williams
42% The wine they’d found in an actual cellar, and it was very fine indeed. She watched her worm-brother’s face carefully as he sipped at it, trying to spot if he enjoyed the taste or note, but his face, as finely crafted as it was, was still difficult to read. Twice now she had taken him back to the pools and pushed her fingers back into his flesh, seeking to make him closer to the vision she had in her head.

BLURB: Jump on board a war beast or two with Vintage, Noon and Tor and return to Sarn for the last installment of this epic series where the trio must gather their forces and make a final stand against the invading Jure’lia.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the first two books in this sci fi/fantasy mash-up – The Ninth Rain and The Bitter Twins. There’s aliens… huge worm-like monsters… dragons… entertaining and feisty heroines – and did I mention the dragons? As well as a gripping tale. As you can see, I am just under halfway through and I can’t see how anyone other than those nasty old monsters are going to prevail. So I’m looking forward to finding out what happens next!

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Salvation’s Fire: After the War – Book 2 of the After the War series by Justina Robson #Brainfluffbookreview #SalvationsFirebookreview

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This has got to be one of my most eagerly anticipated reads of the year so far, given how much I enjoyed Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Redemption’s Blade. I was particularly intrigued that Justina Robson wrote this sequel, using Tachaikovsky’s world.

The Tzarkomen necromancers sacrificed a thousand women to create a Bride for the Kinslayer so he would spare them in the war. But the Kinslayer is dead and now the creation intended to ensure his eternal rule lies abandoned by its makers in the last place in the world that anyone would look for it. Which doesn’t prevent someone finding her by accident. Will the Bride return the gods to the world or will she bring the end of days? It all depends on the one who found her, Kula, a broken-hearted little girl with nothing left to lose.

So does this one work? Oh yes – this is an amazing premise. The Bride returning to the world long after the tyrant she was designed to partner, has been vanquished. What is her purpose now? And perhaps even more importantly – what will she decide to do, now her bridegroom is dead? The opening sequences surrounding the circumstances where we see the Bride return are really gripping, though I have a hunch if you haven’t read Redemption’s Blade, you might not appreciate the importance of the place and significance of what is happening. This is one sequel that should not be read as a stand-alone, in my opinion – apart from anything else it would be a crying shame to miss out on the joy that is Redemption’s Blade.

Part of the fun of reading a series is to chart the development of the main characters. If I have a niggle with this particular story, it is that Celestine, whose energy and concerns pinged off the pages in the first book, is a pale shadow in this adventure. While she is constantly around, I did find it frustrating not to have her opinions as vibrantly represented as in Tchaikovsky’s tale.

The other issue, which is more of an observation rather than a criticism, is that Robson’s style is denser than Tchaikovsky’s and I had to slow down and pay more attention to the text than when reading the first book. That said, I am a fan of Justina Robson’s writing – see my review of Down to the Bone – and am familiar with her style. I was fascinated to see how each author presented this interesting, complex world. I very much enjoyed the strong relationship between the newly resurrected Bride and the orphaned child, Kula – it isn’t often we see any form of parental relationships explored in science fiction and fantasy and I was delighted to watch how this partnership developed throughout the story.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this one and would be happy to see Angry Robot approach another author to take this story on further. Or maybe have both Tchaikovsky and Robson follow up their efforts with another book each. However it’s done, I really, really hope this series continues – there is so much more I would like to know about these characters and this world. Recommended for fans of epic fantasy with a difference. While I obtained an arc of Salvation’s Fire: After the War from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

Review of KINDLE Ebook Nolander – Book 1 of the Emanations series by Becca Mills #Brainfluffbookreview #Nolanderbookreview

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Beth Ryder knows she’s different. In a tiny rural town, being an orphaned and perpetually single amateur photographer crippled by panic disorder is pretty much guaranteed to make you stick out like a sore thumb. But Beth doesn’t understand just how different she really is.

One day, strange things start cropping up in her photos. Things that don’t look human. Impossible things. Monstrosities. Beth thinks her hateful sister-in-law, Justine, has tampered with her pictures to play a cruel joke, but rather than admitting or denying it, Justine up and vanishes, leaving the family in disarray. Beth’s search for Justine plunges her into a world she never knew existed, one filled with ancient and terrifying creatures…

And that’s the intriguing premise for this quirky and unusual urban fantasy set in a small town in America, where almost everyone knows who you are and your business. That can be a comfort and support – or a something else a lot less helpful if you happen to fall outside normal expectations. If you are afflicted with disabling panic attacks, for instance… I was particularly interested in this one, because for a while in my twenties, I was prone to panic attacks – they always happened in busy, crowded places – on a bus or a plane, for instance… They took away my prospects for promotion to any kind of responsible job – until I pinpointed the cause. But I know only too well the wretched feeling as one would start building and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it – Mills manages to very effectively portray that feeling of helplessness.

The story spiralled off into a portal world for an extended part of the book – both unexpected and yet absolutely engrossing. I like the fact that Mills has a habit of taking the plot in unexpected directions, so that I ended up reading something quite different from what I thought I was getting. However, I thoroughly enjoyed the journey and am really looking forward to discovering where this unusual story goes next.

Recommended for fantasy fans who enjoy quirky writing.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Garrison Girl – Book 1 of the Attack on Titan! series by Rachel Aaron #Brainfluffbookreview #GarrisonGirlbookreview

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I like Rachel Aaron’s writing – see my reviews of Fortune’s Pawn and Nice Dragons Finish Last – so when I saw her name on this one, I immediately requested it. I had no idea the world was set in a very successful manga series. And frankly, I offer up this nugget of information as a point of interest, because if I hadn’t told you – other than the rather indigestible info-dump right at the beginning, you wouldn’t know.

An original novel, with all-new characters and a new story set in the world of Attack on Titan! Fans of the series and readers alike will enjoy this immersive and engaging experience of the pop culture phenomenon and manga mega-hit.

With the last vestige of the human race threatened by unstoppable carnivorous giants, a brave young woman decides to defy her wealthy family and join the military to fight against humanity’s enemies. But Rosalie Dumarque soon finds out that bloody sword fights with monsters aren’t the only dangers faced by the Wall Rose Garrison. Can she earn the trust of her fellow soldiers, stand up to a corrupt authority, navigate a forbidden romance…and cut her way out of a titan’s throat?

Aaron is accomplished at dropping us into a situation and giving us all the necessary details as we go along, so that rather tedious opening info-dump is out of character. I’m guessing it was a stipulation by the publishers, it certainly feels that way… Once that is out of the way, this one picks up the pace. We are largely in the viewpoint of Rosalie, who has been raised to honour the military tradition of her noble family and is determined to do more than marry and continue the bloodline.

I love the setting of the wall and the steampunk feel to the gizmos that assists the soldiers in the insanely dangerous business of killing the titans. Any other wound the monsters suffer from, they can regenerate – doubtless fuelled by all the human flesh they keep gobbling at any available opportunity.

Rosalie has first to surmount the hurdle of being accepted by her fellow soldiers as she appears in an immaculate dress uniform and far too much luggage, whereas most of her comrades in arms are desperate refugees who watched their friends and family eaten. It makes for a rocky start… I like her idealism and determination to do her duty. It would have been all too easy to make her some heroic, adrenaline-fuelled protagonist who excelled when alongside her poor, commoner companions – and I’m very glad Aaron resisted the urge to do so.

The action scenes are well written, with plenty going on. While I realised early on there would be a romantic thread, it doesn’t impact too much on the gritted struggle to keep the titans at bay. I like Jax, but my favourite supporting characters are Willow and Emmet, who are part of Rosalie’s team. They are a lovely pair of warm-hearted characters with a tragic backstory, who I really cared about.

I had sort of guessed how the climax and denouement would pan out – and I was utterly wrong. It was far more gritty and shocking. The story was wrapped up satisfactorily, but I was left with a lot of questions about the titans, which the book raises but doesn’t remotely answer. I guess that’s okay – it is, after all, the first in the series. Will I be interested in reading more of this world? Absolutely. The world ravaged by ravenous giants makes for page-turning adventures. Recommended for fans of action fantasy with plenty of fighting and a side-order of romance.
8/10

#Sunday Post – 17th June, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog #BrainfluffSundayPost

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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.

Again, I’m really sorry… I STILL haven’t caught up with comments and blog visits after my walk in the wilderness, when I was cast adrift from the internet for nearly a fortnight. It’s been a rather busy week…

On Monday, it was my last teaching session of the year with Tim – and yet we couldn’t take it easy as he had his Functional Skills Level 2 Writing exam on Thursday. It’s been a momentous year in every sense of the word, having successfully filmed his musical comedy adventure film with a cast of 23, in nine different locations. He has also succeeded in passing his CoPE project, as well as the Composition and Performance strands of his GCSE Music exam – we’re just waiting to hear if he has managed to pass the Theory element. Even more importantly, he is also a delightful, articulate young man, who is a joy to teach and is increasingly confident in branching out in his learning.

I was teaching Creative Writing on Monday and Tuesday evenings, then on Wednesday we had the Northbrook Information Evening, which I always look forward to as a chance to meet up with my fellow tutors. I was lucky enough to be invited for tea with Sarah and her family, before we had our fortnightly writing group – a treat as she is a fantastic cook. On Thursday, I drove Tim and his mother to school for his exam, which has now become something of a ritual – he came out happy that he answered both questions to the best of his ability, which is all we can ask for. I was supposed to go out to West Sussex Writers’ talk on Thursday evening, but fell asleep and when I woke up – the meeting was half over. So I slummocked on the sofa, instead, watching the final of Britain’s Best Home Cook.

On Friday, I had lunch with my sister at the Look and Sea café and we spent the rest of the afternoon chatting and catching up with each other’s lives – it is such a joy having her so close! Then yesterday, my writing buddy came over for the day and we discussed all things writing and dived into the whirlpool that is Marketing. Today is my stepfather’s birthday party designed to coincide with Father’s Day, so there is a great gathering of the clan at my sister’s house at Arlesford. It was a lovely party hosted by my lovely sister and brother in law, who were marvellous hosts and it was great fun catching up with family members I don’t see very often.

This week I have read:

Crossways – Book 2of the Psi-Tech series by Jacey Bedford
Ben Benjamin, psi-tech Navigator, and Cara Carlinni, Telepath, can never go home again. To the Trust and Alphacorp alike, they are wanted criminals. Murder, terrorism, armed insurrection, hijacking, grand theft, and kidnapping are just the top of a long list of charges they’ll face if they’re caught. So they better not get caught…

I picked up this one at Forbidden Planet back in February – and I’m so glad I did – I’m also glad that I have the final book in this trilogy, Nimbus which I’m really looking forward to tucking into.

 

All Systems Red – Book 1 of the Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells
In a corporate-dominated spacefaring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids, for their own safety. But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn’t a primary concern.

On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied ‘droid — a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as “Murderbot.” Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is. But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it’s up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth.

This novella is a fabulous colony-based adventure with the android as the protagonist – I loved this one and can see why there’s so much hype about it.

 

Nolander – Book 1 of the Emanations series by Becca Mills
Beth Ryder knows she’s different. In a tiny rural town, being an orphaned and perpetually single amateur photographer crippled by panic disorder is pretty much guaranteed to make you stick out like a sore thumb. But Beth doesn’t understand just how different she really is.

One day, strange things start cropping up in her photos. Things that don’t look human. Impossible things. Monstrosities. Beth thinks her hateful sister-in-law, Justine, has tampered with her pictures to play a cruel joke, but rather than admitting or denying it, Justine up and vanishes, leaving the family in disarray. Beth’s search for Justine plunges her into a world she never knew existed, one filled with ancient and terrifying creatures.

I thoroughly enjoyed this unusual urban fantasy offering, featuring a protagonist suffering from constant panic attacks – to the extent that she cannot escape the small town she grew up in and attend college. This one immediately drew me in – I will be reviewing it in due course.

My posts during the last week:

Sunday Post – 10th June 2018

Review of Gwithyas: Door to the Void by Isha Crowe

Teaser Tuesday featuring Crossways – Book 2 of the Psi-Tech series by Jacey Bedford

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Child I by Steve Tasane

Review of Remnants of Trust – Book 2 of the Central Corps series by Elizabeth Bonesteel

Friday Face-off featuring Green Rider – Book 1 of the Green Rider series by Kristen Britain

Review of Netgalley arc novella Time Was by Ian McDonald

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

New DIY MFA Post on Revenge as a Literary Theme (Plus, Looking for Your Help with this Year’s Blogoversary https://saraletourneauwriter.com/2018/06/13/diy-mfa-revenge-theme-blogoversary/ Sara discusses how the theme of revenge has been used – and asks for suggestions on how she could best celebrate her 10th anniversary of blogging…

Mark your calendars for the Indian Lit Readathon! https://thisislitblog.com/2018/06/16/mark-your-calendars-for-the-indian-lit-readathon/ Shruti is very excited about this one – quite right too. So dust off your books written by Indian authors and join in…

Rocks and Light: Natural Art https://writersite.org/2018/06/11/rocks-and-light-on-canvas/ This article is not only interesting and well written – but includes the most fabulous photos…

#lessons learned from @HollyBlack: Start the #storytelling with #writing the departure from the #characters normal https://jeanleesworld.com/2018/06/07/lessons-learned-from-hollyblack-start-the-storytelling-with-writing-the-departure-from-the-characters-normal/ Another cracking and highly readable article giving readers and writers alike insights in the craft of writing…

The Skincare Bible by Dr Anjali Mahto https://onereadersthoughts.com/2018/06/11/the-skincare-bible-by-dr-anjali-mahto/ I don’t normally include reviews – but this delightful book sounds like an ideal present (HINT – my birthday is coming up VERY soon…) for myself and other family members!

Thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site – and I promise to get back to you as soon as I can!

Review of NETGALLEY arc Blunt Force Magic – Book 1 of The Monsters and Men trilogy by Lawrence Davis

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I read several positive reviews of this one and took one look at the cover – and requested it…

Janzen Robinson is a man lost between two worlds. Five years removed from a life as an apprentice to a group of do-gooding heroes who championed the fight against supernatural evils, the once-promising student is now a package courier going through the daily grind, passing time at a hole-in-the-wall bar and living in a tiny, run-down apartment on the south side of Cleveland, Ohio. Then fate (or a case of bad timing) brings him face to face with a door that’s got his old life written all over it. From the ancient recesses of unyielding darkness known as the Abyss, a creature has been summoned: a Stalker, a predator whose real name is forbidden to be spoken aloud. It’s a bastardization of the natural order, a formidable blend of dark magic and primal tenacity. Its single-minded mission? Ending the life of a fiery, emerging young witch.

Though the cool cover shouts otherwise – at least to me, who thought this was going to morph into epic fantasy, this story is very much within the urban fantasy genre. That said, there are some striking differences that make this one stand out. Yes, Janzen has been selected as an apprentice due to his natural talent – however, that was a while ago. In the meantime, something terrible has happened to his mentor and he has spent the last five years just getting by. Therefore, while he does have raw talent, there is relatively little skill or finesse in his workings. I really like the idea that he is only half trained and that because of his chippy, mouthy character, he is also tricky to help, as he is often his own worst enemy.

That doesn’t stop him plunging into a desperate situation against a very dangerous opponent without too much thought about the consequences. This is partly due to his own bloody-minded nature and partly due to the survivor guilt he still feels.

While I’m always wary of assuming authors necessarily shoehorn their own lives into their writing, I was interested to read that Davis is a war veteran who served in Iraq. The young soldier who befriends Janzen is very well depicted and all the action scenes are effective and realistic.

In short, this one held me throughout. I liked the dynamic and the fact that there was no romantic relationship running throughout – a refreshing change in urban fantasy, these days. I also liked the scrabbling, somewhat desperate nature of Janzen’s opposition to the nasties ranged against him. I particularly appreciated the monsters – especially the stalkers, which are truly terrifying creatures.

All in all, this is a thoroughly enjoyable new series and I very much look forward to reading another slice of Janzen’s adventures – I hope Davies writes quickly. While I obtained an arc of Blunt Force Magic from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
10/10

Discovery Challenge 2017 and Tackling My TBR – May Roundup

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After reading Jo Hall’s post on the problems women authors have with getting discovered, I’ve been taking part in the challenge to read and review at least 24 books by female authors each year that were previously unknown to me for the last two years. During May, I read three books towards my 2017 Discovery Challenge, which brings my annual number of books written by women writers I hadn’t read before to sixteen. They are:

The Space Between the Stars by Anne Corlett
All Jamie Allenby ever wanted was space. Even though she wasn’t forced to emigrate from Earth, she willingly left the overpopulated, claustrophobic planet. And when a long relationship devolved into silence and suffocating sadness, she found work on a frontier world on the edges of civilization. Then the virus hit… Now Jamie finds herself dreadfully alone, with all that’s left of the dead. Until a garbled message from Earth gives her hope that someone from her past might still be alive.
This is an impressive debut novel that takes a familiar trope of the apocalyptic end of the world and makes it more about the protagonist’s internal, emotional journey than the gritted struggle of survival we normally get. I thoroughly enjoyed this offering and look forward to more from this author – see my review here.

The Broken Ones – prequel to The Malediction Trilogy by Danielle L. Jensen
Below Forsaken Mountain, a plot is being hatched to overthrow the tyrant king of Trollus, and Marc is the right-hand man of its leader. His involvement is information more than one troll would kill to possess, which is why he must keep it a secret from everyone, even the girl he loves. After accidentally ruining her sister’s chance to become queen, Pénélope is given one last opportunity by her father, the Duke d’Angoulême, to make herself useful: she must find proof that the boy she’s in love with is conspiring against the crown. If she fails, her life will be forfeit.
This gripping, emotional book charts the power struggle going on in the highest level of society. Those with the most magic are in control and treat everyone else with a chilling lack of compassion. It is all about getting more influence and control and no one is allowed to stand in the way – certainly not a young couple in love and afflicted with iron rot… I very much enjoyed this savage world and look forward to getting hold of more books in this series in due course – see my review here.

The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan
Once a celebrated author of short stories now in his twilight years, Anthony Peardew has spent half his life lovingly collecting lost objects, trying to atone for a promise broken many years before. Realising he is running out of time, he leaves his house and all its lost treasures to his assistant Laura, the one person he can trust to fulfil his legacy and reunite the thousands of objects with their rightful owners.
But the final wishes of the Keeper of Lost Things have unforeseen repercussions which trigger a most serendipitous series of encounters…
This is a lovely story with a big heart – and no, that is not some coded warning that this is a saccharine read. For in amongst the quirky charm, Hogan tackles head-on issues such as dementia and features characters that fall outside society’s ideas of what is normal. I very much enjoyed this one and will be reviewing it in due course.

I also managed to clear eleven books from my TBR pile. They are:
Spellbound – Book 2 of the Spellwright series by Blake Charlton
Francesca DeVega is a healer in the city of Avel, composing magical sentences that close wounds and disspell curses. But when a newly dead patient sits up and tells her that she must flee the infirmary or face a fate worse than death, Francesca finds herself in the middle of a game she doesn’t understand—one that ties her to the notorious rogue wizard Nicodemus Weal and brings her face-to-face with demons, demigods, and a man she hoped never to see again. Ten years ago, Nico escaped Starhaven Academy, leaving behind his failed life, in which he was considered disabled and felt useless. Now, in Spellbound, he’s starting fresh, using his newfound gifts in the dark Chthonic languages to pursue the emerald that holds his birthright. Unfortunately, he can’t escape the chaos of his old life. His mentor suffers from an incurable curse, agents of the fabled Halcyon hunt him day and night, pieces of Francesca’s story don’t add up, and the prophesized War of Disjunction looms on the horizon.
This epic fantasy adventure is about magical systems and how those imbued with magic have to cope with the way it bends and warps their lives in unimaginable ways. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book or series where the rules of magic are so pervasive. This inventive, clever series deserves to be far better known – see my review here.

A Second Chance – Book 3 of The Chronicles of St. Mary’s by Jodi Taylor
St Mary’s is back and nothing is going right for Max. Once again, it’s just one damned thing after another. The action jumps from an encounter with a mirror-stealing Isaac Newton to the bloody battlefield at Agincourt. Discover how a simple fact-finding assignment to witness the ancient and murderous cheese- rolling ceremony in Gloucester can result in CBC – concussion by cheese. The long awaited jump to Bronze Age Troy ends in personal catastrophe for Max and just when it seems things couldn’t get any worse – it’s back to the Cretaceous Period again to confront an old enemy who has nothing to lose. So, make the tea, grab the chocolate biscuits, settle back and discover exactly why the entire history department has painted itself blue
As you may have gathered from the blurb, in parts this book is laugh-aloud hilarious – what isn’t quite so obvious is that in other places it is heart-breakingly sad. What it never does is stand still. I love the roller-coaster ride – even though I need some breathing space between books. See my review here.

The Outskirter’s Secret – Book 2 of The Steerswoman series by Rosemary Kirstein
Two shining lights hung above, motionless in the night sky as the constellations slowly passed behind them. The common folk knew them well, and used them to count the hours, mark the seasons. But when the steerswoman Rowan discovered a number of broken blue jewels of clearly magical origin, her investigations led to a startling discovery: a Guidestar had fallen. There were more than two; the others hung above the opposite side of the world; something had caused one of those to fall. But what? And what might it mean? Rowan had no answers… But she knew one thing: where the fallen Guidestar was located. To reach it, she must cross the Inner Lands and pass deep into the wild and deadly Outskirts. Rowan’s traveling companion, Bel, is an Outskirter herself. Together the steerswoman and the warrior-poet have a chance of surviving the cruel landscape, the barbarian tribes, and the bizarre native wildlife.
Another gem of a series that deserves to be read far more widely. This second book has provided plenty of twists and given the story a cool science fiction twist that has me longing to pick up the next book – see my review here.

Assassin’s Fate – Book 3 of the Fitz and the Fool series and Book 16 of The Realm of the Elderlings by Robin Hobb
Prince FitzChivalry Farseer’s daughter Bee was violently abducted from Withywoods by Servants of the Four in their search for the Unexpected Son, foretold to wield great power. With Fitz in pursuit, the Servants fled through a Skill-pillar, leaving no trace. It seems certain that they and their young hostage have perished in the Skill-river. Clerres, where White Prophets were trained by the Servants to set the world on a better path, has been corrupted by greed. Fitz is determined to reach the city and take vengeance on the Four, not only for the loss of Bee but also for their torture of the Fool. Accompanied by FitzVigilant, son of the assassin Chade, Chade’s protégé Spark and the stableboy Perseverance, Bee’s only friend, their journey will take them from the Elderling city of Kelsingra, down the perilous Rain Wild River, and on to the Pirate Isles.
This is the final book in this trilogy and for my money is her best book yet. Action-packed and full of emotion, with a real twist in the end, this is one of my favourite books of the year so far and is my book of the month. See my review here.

The Ninth Rain – Book 1 of The Winnowing Flame by Jen Williams
The great city of Ebora once glittered with gold. Now its streets are stalked by wolves. Tormalin the Oathless has no taste for sitting around waiting to die while the realm of his storied ancestors falls to pieces – talk about a guilt trip. Better to be amongst the living, where there are taverns full of women and wine. When eccentric explorer, Lady Vincenza ‘Vintage’ de Grazon, offers him employment, he sees an easy way out. Even when they are joined by a fugitive witch with a tendency to set things on fire, the prospect of facing down monsters and retrieving ancient artefacts is preferable to the abomination he left behind. But not everyone is willing to let the Eboran empire collapse, and the adventurers are quickly drawn into a tangled conspiracy of magic and war.
Tension winds through the story as we are pitchforked right in the middle of this fascinating wrecked world and then try to figure out exactly what is going on as slices of information is steadily fed our way. Another cracking read – see my review here.

Sweep in Peace – Book 2 of the Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews
Dina DeMille doesn’t run your typical Bed and Breakfast. Her inn defies laws of physics, her fluffy dog is secretly a monster, and the only paying guest is a former Galactic tyrant with a price on her head. But the inn needs guests to thrive, and guests have been scarce, so when an Arbitrator shows up at Dina’s door and asks her to host a peace summit between three warring species, she jumps on the chance. Unfortunately, for Dina, keeping the peace between Space Vampires, the Hope-Crushing Horde, and the devious Merchants of Baha-char is much easier said than done. On top of keeping her guests from murdering each other, she must find a chef, remodel the inn…and risk everything, even her life, to save the man she might fall in love with. But then it’s all in the day’s work for an Innkeeper…
I really enjoyed this unusual urban fantasy set in an inn with a difference. This particular peace conference certainly provides plenty of opportunity for mayhem and turmoil – review not yet posted.

Cold-Forged Flame – Book 1 of the Ree Varekai novella series by Marie Brennan
The sound of the horn pierces the apeiron, shattering the stillness of that realm. Its clarion call creates ripples, substance, something more. It is a summons, a command. There is will. There is need.
And so, in reply, there is a woman.
At the beginning—no—at the end—she appears, full of fury and bound by chains of prophecy. Setting off on an unexplained quest from which she is compelled to complete, and facing unnatural challenges in a land that doesn’t seem to exist, she will discover the secrets of herself, or die trying. But along the way, the obstacles will grow to a seemingly insurmountable point, and the final choice will be the biggest sacrifice yet.
This novella certainly packs a punch with an impressive protagonist full of rage and power – and no recollection of who she is and where she came from. She just knows she has a quest and is bound to carry it out. Review not yet posted.

A Hero’s Guide to Deadly Dragons – Book 6 of the How to Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell
It’s Hiccup’s birthday, but that’s not going to keep him from getting into trouble. To save his dragon, Toothless, from being banished, Hiccup must sneak into the Meathead Public Library and steal the Viking’s most sacred book. But the Vikings see books as a dangerous influence, and keep them locked up and under heavy guard. To save his friend, Hiccup must brave the Hairy Scary Librarian and his dreadful army of Meathead Warriors and face off against the formidable Driller-Dragons. Will he make it out and live to see his next birthday?
Once more Oscar and I settled down together to enjoy this madcap adventure with all the unexpected plot twists, wondering how Hiccup is going to escape this next lethal threat. Great stuff!

Silent City – Book 1 of the Corin Hayes series by G.R. Matthews
In the Corporation owned cities life is tough. All Hayes wants is money and a bar to spend it in. He is about to learn that some jobs in the abyss can be killers. For a man who has lost everything, is life even worth fighting for?
Lots of adventure and incident in this underwater, military science fiction offering, featuring a flawed protagonist with a dark backstory… Enjoyable and engrossing.

 

 

 

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
The monster showed up after midnight. As they do. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming… This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth.
I loved this one. It could so easily have descended into a sentimental mess and didn’t. I particularly enjoyed the unpredictable, dangerous nature of the monster… Review not yet posted.

The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan
See above.

So that is my May roundup. Due to my illness back in April, I still have a backlog of reviews waiting to be posted, which is a nice position to be in – and a change for me! Have you read any of the above books? If so, what did you think of them?

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review KINDLE Ebook American Monsters – Book 3 of the Demon Road series by Derek Landy

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This is the final instalment of this YA horror series, featuring Amber, a demon who shape-shifts when the going gets tough – see my reviews of Demon Road and Desolation. And the going is continually tough…

americanmonstersBigger, meaner, stronger. Amber closes in on her murderous parents as they make one last desperate play for power. Her own last hopes of salvation, however, rest beyond vengeance, beyond the abominable killers – living and dead – that she and Milo will have to face. For Amber’s future lies in her family’s past, in the brother and sister she never knew, and the horrors beyond imagining that befell them.

Amber has teamed up with Milo and his magical car to fight a series of lethal opponents. However, they all rather pale against her struggle with her seriously unpleasant parents, who raised her for the sole purpose of eating her once she came into her demonic powers. I really like the fact that when she isn’t a tall, red-skinned demon she is a rather plump, nondescript-looking girl. And her prospective girlfriend is attracted to the human side of her, rather than her charismatically fearsome alter ego.

Once again, the story starts with a bang and doesn’t let up as we are whisked from one crisis to another. There are a range of unpleasant monsters and creeps in this story, the most memorable being the murderous clown fixated on killing sixteen-year-olds. The action is vividly portrayed, with plenty of gore and a number of key characters dying off – to an extent that I was a tad winded when one of them met his end…

I’ve enjoyed this series, but I’m not quite sure who it’s aimed at. There is an awful lot of violence and murder, with not quite enough emotional bonding for it to truly appeal to the teenage girls I know – and while the non-stop action would definitely tick the boys’ boxes, I can’t see them warming to a gay shape-shifting female who beats up several men who bad-mouth her in sexist terms. While it is marketed as YA, I’d recommend that you check it out before you allow your younger teens to read it. Many, no doubt, will be perfectly able to cope with the action, but it is very graphic and there are some horrific moments that could upset sensitive children with vivid imaginations.

I received the arc of American Monsters from the publishers via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
7/10

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

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I saw this on the NetGalley shelves, read the premise and decided to go for it. It looked fun and besides, it had a nice cover that really drew me in…

brightblazeofmagicAs a thief, I’m good at three things: hiding in the shadows, getting in and out unseen, and uncovering secrets. I put these skills to work for the Sinclair Family, one of the magical mobs that run the tourist town of Cloudburst Falls. Everyone knows Victor Draconi wants to take over all the other Families – and kill every last Sinclair. What they don’t know is that I’m on to him, and no way will I let the man who murdered my mom get away with hurting all the other people I care about. Especially when I’ve got places to break into, stuff to steal, and Devon Sinclair fighting right by my side…

It wasn’t until I’d started the book that I realised I’d done it again… After all my best intentions – I’d crashed mid-way into a series as Bright Blaze of Magic is the third book in the Black Blades series. However, this wasn’t a problem as Estep is far too experienced and deft a writer to leave this clueless reader adrift. Without going into long, involved explanations, I was provided with all the necessary backstory to be able to get up to speed for this slice of the narrative arc. The process was helped by the fact that our feisty heroine bounces off the page with loads of personality and charisma. The supporting cast were easily distinguished and the antagonist was satisfyingly obnoxious – and as the story wore on, I learnt what had driven him to be the way he was. This was all delivered in a smooth, readable writing style that spoke of plenty of experience and ability.

I like the world very much. This swords and sorcery romp is set in the world with plenty of modern gismos, such as cars, mobile phones alongside capes, feathered hats and lots of sharp swords. Initially I raised my eyebrows, but it certainly seemed to work and once I became thoroughly engrossed, it didn’t matter. I also loved the monsters, including the Western-style pixie.

The climax was suitably enthralling, such that I stayed up reading far later than I should and really enjoyed the very satisfying ending. Though, if you like the sound of this – don’t repeat my mistake, go and track down the first book, Cold Burn of Magic, because this is a series that deserves to be read in the right order.

The ebook arc copy of Bright Blaze of Magic was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book
8/10