After following this entertaining series and Alisa Marchenko’s search for her daughter for over a year now, here I am at the last book. See my reviews of Star Normad, Honor’s Flight, Cleon Moon and Perilous Hunt. As with all enjoyable series, I reach this point with very mixed feelings, which is why I often put off reading the final book – I don’t want the adventure to end. But as I know there’s now a spinoff series available and I have far more new series stacking up than I can possibly read, it’s time to get practical…
BLURB: Alisa Marchenko has reunited with her daughter, and even though she hasn’t figured out how to get Jelena to accept Leonidas yet, she dreams of the three of them starting a new life together. They can return the Star Nomad to its original purpose of running freight and staying out of trouble (mostly). Before that can happen, Alisa must fulfill the promise she made to Jelena: that she and her crew will retrieve young Prince Thorian, the boy who has become Jelena’s best friend. But Thorian was kidnapped by the rogue Starseer Tymoteusz, the man who wants to use the Staff of Lore to take over the entire system—and the man who may have the power to do it. Alisa doesn’t know why he kidnapped Thorian, but Tymoteusz once promised to kill the prince, so she fears they don’t have much time. Unfortunately, Tymoteusz hasn’t left a trail of breadcrumbs. Finding him will be difficult, and even if they’re successful, facing him could be suicidal. To have a chance of surviving, Alisa will have to come up with her greatest scheme yet.
REVIEW: Whatever you do – don’t crash into this series here. By now far too much has happened, and as this book picks up pretty much where Perilous Hunt left off, you’ll be floundering in a welter of names and places, before you figure out who is doing what to whom. Besides, it would be a crying shame to so short-change such a funny, entertaining series by such a talented author.
I really liked how finding Jelena has switched Alisa’s priorities. Her burgeoning romance with hunky cyborg Leonidas pretty much slides to a halt, as they are both aware that Jelena’s telepathic abilities could read their frustrated longing for each other, and as Jelena is only eight and already afraid of Leonidas, that would prove to be… awkward. Not that is the only thing Alisa has to focus on. Once again, Star Nomad, her clunky little freighter, finds itself up to its star drives in more trouble than it can cope with – so ditto the crew. I love the way that in the middle of all the risk of imminent death and destruction, there are still laugh-aloud moments of humour. Mica, Alisa’s long-suffering engineer is particularly hilarious.
But given that this is the final book in the series, the burning issue has to be – does it satisfactorily bring all that angst, romantic longing, humour and page-turning adventure to a fitting conclusion? Absolutely. Buroker nails it. As I haven’t read her books before, I am so impressed at how she managed to tie everything up without making it seem too tidy, or unrealistically cosy – yet at the same time not leaving any stray strands waving in the wind to niggle at me. It takes skill and experience to achieve such an outcome – and means I’ll certainly be looking out for this author, again. It’s one thing to bring a single book to a satisfying ending – it takes another order of ability to do the same with an eight-book series. Highly recommended for fans of action-packed space opera with a splash of humour and romance thrown in for good measure. 9/10
This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this week we are featuring covers with LAKES. I’ve selected The Ghost Fields – Book 7 of the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths.
This cover was produced by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in May 2015 and is my favourite – and it’s the cover that came to mind when I saw this week’s theme. I love the quirky font and the scene that accurately depicts a keynote event in this book. The overall design and font used works well with the branding for the rest of the series. I particularly approve of the clean, uncluttered look of the cover with no blurbs cluttering up the design – doesn’t it make a difference?
Published in March 2015, by Quercus, this is another contender, as far as I’m concerned. There is a strong sense of intrigue as the young woman walks away from us, though barn doors, or could it be old hangar doors? However, I don’t think the title or author fonts are as well handled, and I don’t like the block of blurb disfiguring the design.
This Swedish edition, published in July 2015 by Bokförlaget Forum is another visually striking effort. I think what initially appears to be a very simple design is cleverly constructed – our eyes are drawn along that rickety fence to look into the hazy distance, where the flat ground gives way to an expanse of water. The subdued lighting caused by the setting sun adds to the sense of atmosphere and I really like how the orange in the author font picks up and matches the distant skyline.
Published by Quercus in June 2016, this edition is another fence leading off into the distance, more or less in the same way as the above example. Perhaps it was inspired by the Swedish design, as it does look every similar. However, the only part of this cover that is completely in focus are the tussocks of grass, the nearest fence post and a couple of strings of barbed wire. And the rather cloudy sky. Because the image so quickly loses clarity, so the distant buildings are mere blurs, I don’t find this cover conveys all that much that makes me want to pick up this book.
This German edition, published in August 2019, has probably gone too far the other way. Again, it starts with a fence in the foreground and the rundown building in the background – this time around, far more clearly depicted, which works far better. But I do think that black sky above is just a step too far. As is the vivid green lettering – it gives the book a horror vibe which it shouldn’t have, given that Ruth is an archaeologist struggling to bring up her daughter on her own and from time to time gets drawn into a number of murder mysteries. Do this one doesn’t do it for me – but what about you, which one is your favourite?
I have been enjoying the adventures of Alisa and the disparate collection of people she has accumulated during her search for her daughter. Filled with action and excitement, I’ve been impressed at the variety of scenarios Buroker has managed to provide to prevent this series becoming remotely repetitive. See my reviews of Star Normad, Honor’s Flight and Cleon Moon. So where would this penultimate book take us? I have linked this post to #Sci Fi Month 2020.
BLURB: After failing to catch up with her daughter Jelena so many times, Alisa’s optimism is battered, but her determination has never waned. She, Leonidas, and their eclectic crew are hunting down a Starseer research station in the heart of the Kir Asteroid belt—Jelena’s supposed location. Alisa vows that she will find her daughter if she has to search a million asteroids to do so. But Jelena and her close friend, Prince Thorian, have attracted the interest of many factions, and the Star Nomad isn’t the only ship on the hunt…
REVIEW: My ongoing criticism of this series has been that Alisa’s search for her daughter has seemed somewhat leisurely, missing the edge of desperation that I felt should have been there. It has been a minor niggle, rather than a major grumble – but this book fixed that issue, as Alisa confronts her guilt for leaving her family in the first place to join the Alliance as a pilot. Those creepy Starseers, who can see into people’s minds, are no less threatening this time around and the pace and action scenes acquired extra energy as this book.
There is also progress in the relationship between Alisa and her cyborg hunk, Leonidas, which has been stalled by a major impediment that prevented them getting any closer. I was pleased to see Alisa conflicted between her sense of responsibility towards her young daughter – feeling guilty that in amongst all of that, she has also been pursuing her own happiness. Yep – welcome to the world of motherhood! I am conscious that I have been giving the impression that this book has been mired in some fairly angsty topics, which is the case. But that hasn’t prevented large dollops of humour surfacing, as Alisa tends to inappropriate drollery when things get difficult or dangerous. And once again, there have been difficulties and danger in spades, which didn’t stop me sniggering at the interchanges between Alisa and her spiky engineer Mica, who keeps threatening to leave – but somehow doesn’t quite get around to it.
Throughout this book is a sense that everything is winding up towards the final denouement – and like all thoroughly enjoyable series, that leaves me feeling quite torn. On one hand, I’m looking forward to Alisa getting back her daughter and perhaps a bit of respite from all the ongoing problems besetting her – on the other hand, I’m not looking forward coming to the end of spending time alongside an entertaining cast of characters who have provided a lot of escapist pleasure over the last two years. Highly recommended – but do read the other books first, or you’ll miss out on far too much of the story. 9/10
Mini-review of AUDIOBOOK – Salt Lane – Book 1 of the Alexandra Cupidi series by William Shaw BLURB: DS Alexandra Cupidi has done it again. She should have learnt to keep her big mouth shut, after the scandal that sent her packing – resentful teenager in tow – from the London Met to the lonely Kent coastline. Even murder looks different in this landscape of fens, ditches and stark beaches, shadowed by the towers of Dungeness power station. Murder looks a lot less pretty. The man drowned in the slurry pit had been herded there like an animal. He was North African, like many of the fruit pickers that work the fields. The more Cupidi discovers, the more she wants to ask – but these people are suspicious of questions. It will take an understanding of this strange place – its old ways and new crimes – to uncover the dark conspiracy behind the murder. Cupidi is not afraid to travel that road. But she should be. She should, by now, have learnt.
REVIEW:I really enjoyed this well-crafted murder mystery. The actual storyline was quite bleak, highlighting the blight of illegal immigrants as they are exploited by unscrupulous gangmasters. But the progression was excellent, with the police procedures coming across as suitably modern – something that doesn’t always happen in this genre. I also particularly liked the development of the main protagonist and her unfolding relationship with both her daughter and her mother. Highly recommended for fans of Elly Griffiths’ books. 9/10
Mini-review of The Outcast Dead – Book 6 of the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths BLURB: Forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway uncovers the bones of a Victorian murderess while a baby snatcher threatens modern-day Norfolk in this exciting new entry in a beloved series. Every year a ceremony is held in Norwich for the bodies in the paupers’ graves: the Service for the Outcast Dead. Ruth has a particular interest in this year’s proceedings. Her recent dig at Norwich Castle turned up the body of the notorious Mother Hook, who was hanged in 1867 for the murder of five children. Now Ruth is the reluctant star of the TV series Women Who Kill, working alongside the program’s alluring history expert, Professor Frank Barker.
DCI Harry Nelson is immersed in the case of three children found dead in their home. He is sure that the mother is responsible. Then another child is abducted and a kidnapper dubbed the Childminder claims responsibility. Are there two murderers afoot, or is the Childminder behind all the deaths? The team must race to find out-and the stakes couldn’t be any higher when another child goes missing.
REVIEW:I’m generally allergic to tales of missing or abducted children – and maybe if I’d realised up front that this slice of Ruth Galloway’s adventures featured snatched children, then I might have given this one a miss. But I’m glad I didn’t. I have become really fond of Ruth and her steady confidence as a mother and increasing growth in her professional reputation. What makes this series especially enjoyable is her sardonic humour, which acts as a welcome foil to some of the darker aspects of the story. It’s also great to see the return of a strong supporting cast – particularly Nelson and Cathbad. Griffiths ensures their ongoing stories also develop alongside Ruth, which makes following this series particularly rewarding. 9/10
I loved Zoo City – it’s one of my all-time favourite reads – see my review. And when I saw this one right at the beginning of the COVID lockdown, I requested it despite the pandemic theme. My heart goes out to Beukes as the timing for this one is dire.
BLURB:They’ll call her a bad mother. Cole can live with that. Because when she breaks her son Miles out of the Male Protection Facility – designed to prevent him joining the 99% of men wiped off the face of the Earth – she’s not just taking him back. She’s setting him free. Leaving Miles in America would leave him as a lab experiment; a pawn in the hands of people who now see him as a treasure to be guarded, traded, and used. What kind of mother would stand by and watch her child suffer? But as their journey to freedom takes them across a hostile and changed country, freedom seems ever more impossible. It’s time for Cole to prove just how far she’ll go to protect her son.
REVIEW: The way the apparently innocent flu mutates into something far more lethal is both scary and plausible – particularly now. I thought the worldbuilding was particularly good, but then that’s Beukes’ superpower, anyway. A post-apocalyptic America where many are reeling from their losses and trying to do deal with the situation as best they could was well depicted and, for me, one of the more enjoyable parts of the book.
My main problem was that I don’t much like Cole and I loathe Billie and as these are the protagonists, with a few sections in Miles’ head, it meant I spent most of the book tolerating, rather than sympathising with main characters. I found Cole’s stubborn, stupid idea to get Miles “away” almost as dumb as Billie’s nasty scheme, while some of the action scenes descended into a horrible kind of farce. Both sisters weren’t good at listening to others and I was profoundly sorry for poor Miles, who was being dragged around the country on the rather scattered whim of his mother and daily exposed to all sorts of unnecessary dangers. She wasn’t a particularly effective mother who’d bonded well with her son. A lot of the banter between them seemed to be Cole trying to coerce Miles into doing what she wanted, without being too heavy-handed about it. And most of the novel seemed to revolve around the toxic relationship between Cole and Billie, rather than an examination of how a society without men would really function.
As for the ending – what was that about? This pandemic was portrayed as a worldwide problem, so that simply didn’t make sense. That said, this one won’t leave me alone. The ugly muddled scenes of violence… the series of run-down places they stayed and some of the pathetic survivors, who’d lost husbands and sons… I’ve dreamt of these. Which proves that while it isn’t a book I necessarily always enjoyed, nonetheless it has sunk its hooks into my inscape with the powerful worldbuilding and vivid writing. Recommended for fans of post-apocalyptic, dystopian scenarios. While I obtained an arc of Afterland from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own. 7/10
I put this one down feeling rather conflicted. It’s an ambitious book in its scope, as Stivers attempts to take the classic apocalyptic lethal plague scenario and give it an interesting twist.
BLURB: The year is 2049. When a deadly non-viral agent intended for biowarfare spreads out of control, scientists must scramble to ensure the survival of the human race. They turn to their last resort, a plan to place genetically engineered children inside the cocoons of large-scale robots–to be incubated, birthed, and raised by machines. But there is yet one hope of preserving the human order–an intelligence programmed into these machines that renders each unique in its own right–the Mother Code.
Kai is born in America’s desert southwest, his only companion his robot Mother, Rho-Z. Equipped with the knowledge and motivations of a human mother, Rho-Z raises Kai and teaches him how to survive. But as children like Kai come of age, their Mothers transform too–in ways that were never predicted. When government survivors decide that the Mothers must be destroyed, Kai must make a choice. Will he break the bond he shares with Rho-Z? Or will he fight to save the only parent he has ever known?
REVIEW: After I started reading this one, I discovered that Stivers is a scientist – which is evident by all the techy details she became engrossed in, which as far as I was concerned, slightly held up the pace. This book isn’t presented as a hard sci fi read – and the fact that a lot of the science surfaced at several crucial points, where the pacing should have been increasing didn’t help my bonding with the main characters. I think this book had the potential to be a truly great read – but Stivers hasn’t quite pulled it off and that is because the story can’t make up its mind what it’s trying to do. It could have been a quirky, hard sci fi adventure about how saving the species got messed up from the viewpoint of the key scientists as the survivors desperately try to outwit the lethal robots protecting them. Or it could have been a gritted survival adventure from the viewpoint of the children battling to stay alive in the desert, accompanied by their robotic mothers. But what Stivers tried to do was straddle both stories and the result is a bit of a hot mess, particularly by the end.
I found it a rather frustrating read, because just as I was starting to care about one of the characters, the viewpoint shifted yet again, which meant that I didn’t bond with anyone in the book, though I came close to caring about poor little Kai and James Said. It didn’t help that I’m not a fan of the apocalyptic scenario where there is a steady attrition of main characters, but in fairness to me – this one wasn’t marketed as that kind of book. It’s a shame, because Stivers isn’t a bad writer and if only she’d had an editor who had given her more clarity as to what she really wanted to do with this story, it could have been awesome. Apparently, Stephen Spielberg has bought the rights to the story, and I’ll be interested to see if he’ll tell the more interesting, quirkier story – or turn it into a Hollywood cliché.
Recommended for fans who enjoy their apocalyptic adventures with a dollop of hard sci fi. The ebook arc copy of The Mother Code was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book. 7/10
This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.
This week has been a lot cooler, with lots of rain, which Himself has found a huge relief. On Thursday, I spent the day with the grandchildren, looking after them during the afternoon while my daughter went to meet a friend. I took them to the swing park and spent the time running around after Eliza like a bothered hen. She’s just at the stage where she’s mobile enough to get into serious trouble and too young to understand any danger… However, the elder two are brilliant with her – she is so lucky to have such lovely brothers! It was a treat to be able to spend so much time with them.
On Saturday, my sister and I were all set to go shopping, but the aftermath of the storm on Friday night meant we still had gale-force winds and torrential downpours. Neither of us were in the mood to hustle through the wind and rain in sodden masks, so we postponed our outing and instead had a cuppa and a sticky bun together at my place. This morning Himself and I went for a walk along the beach, which where this week’s photos were taken – we were lucky enough to dodge the rain.
My website www.sjhigbee.com has had a makeover! Ian has done a wonderful job of making it a lot spiffier and easy to load – and tidied it up so that my growing number of books aren’t making it look too cluttered. I’ve started working on the video clips I’m producing in conjunction with my book How to Write Compelling Characters. It’s going to take a lot of work, but I think it will be worth it. But I must get back to writing, as I’m definitely getting a bit antsy and short-tempered…
Last week I read: A Memory Called Empire – Book 1 of the Teixcalaan series by Arkady Martine Ambassador Mahit Dzmare arrives in the center of the multi-system Teixcalaanli Empire only to discover that her predecessor, the previous ambassador from their small but fiercely independent mining Station, has died. But no one will admit that his death wasn’t an accident—or that Mahit might be next to die, during a time of political instability in the highest echelons of the imperial court… This tense, political thriller is a joy – I’m so glad I finally got around to reading it and now I’m very much looking forward to getting hold of the next book. The tight focus on the main character reminds me of C.J. Cherryh’s writing… Review to follow.
Afterland by Lauren Beukes They’ll call her a bad mother. Cole can live with that. Because when she breaks her son Miles out of the Male Protection Facility – designed to prevent him joining the 99% of men wiped off the face of the Earth – she’s not just taking him back. She’s setting him free. Leaving Miles in America would leave him as a lab experiment; a pawn in the hands of people who now see him as a treasure to be guarded, traded, and used. What kind of mother would stand by and watch her child suffer? But as their journey to freedom takes them across a hostile and changed country, freedom seems ever more impossible. It’s time for Cole to prove just how far she’ll go to protect her son. I struggled with this one a bit – partly because of the subject matter. But mostly because I didn’t like Cole, or anyone else all that much – other than poor, manipulated Miles. Review to follow.
NOVELLA Snowspelled – Book 1 of The Harwood Spellbook by Stephanie Burgis In nineteenth-century Angland, magic is reserved for gentlemen while ladies attend to the more practical business of politics. But Cassandra Harwood has never followed the rules… Four months ago, Cassandra Harwood was the first woman magician in Angland, and she was betrothed to the brilliant, intense love of her life. Now Cassandra is trapped in a snowbound house party deep in the elven dales, surrounded by bickering gentleman magicians, manipulative lady politicians, her own interfering family members, and, worst of all, her infuriatingly stubborn ex-fiancé, who refuses to understand that she’s given him up for his own good. This was the perfect read after the intensity of Afterland, and thoroughly enjoyable, the only drawback being that the end came far too quickly. Mini-review to follow.
AUDIOBOOK Starless by Jacqueline Carey Let your mind be like the eye of the hawk…Destined from birth to serve as protector of the princess Zariya, Khai is trained in the arts of killing and stealth by a warrior sect in the deep desert; yet there is one profound truth that has been withheld from him. In the court of the Sun-Blessed, Khai must learn to navigate deadly intrigue and his own conflicted identity…but in the far reaches of the western seas, the dark god Miasmus is rising, intent on nothing less than wholesale destruction. Another stormingly good read – I absolutely loved Khai and Zariya, who both tried their hardest to be the best they could be, without coming across as unduly good or sickeningly perfect. Review to follow.
This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written. It’s been hot and sunny – particularly the last few days. I love it, but Himself is suffering, as he far prefers the cold. We had the grandchildren stay over on Wednesday and Thursday this week – a treat as Himself was also off. So we took them to the big wheel in the middle of Worthing on Wednesday morning. It was a perfect day to be right up high, with sea views on one side and a clear view of the town on the other. We then went shopping at our local Waterstones, before heading back home. On Thursday, we visited the Wetland and Wildlife Trust in Arundel, one of our favourite places – though this was the first time we’d been since before the lockdown.
It was blisteringly hot on Thursday, but we found it magical with far less people than normal during the summer holidays. The reedbeds in particular were beautiful and peacefu – and we also watched a swarm of bees starting to congregate in the Butterfly garden. We also enjoyed an ice cream sitting in the shade – yay for vegan Magnums! Other than the wheel – this is where the pics were taken.
In the meantime, I’ve been getting Mantivore Warrior fit to face the world, as I’m releasing the book on 31st August. While it is the third book in The Arcadian Chronicles, it is also a good place to jump in, as it features a protagonist whose experiences are utterly different from those of the beleaguered young woman who was at the heart of the story in Mantivore Dreams and Mantivore Prey. If anyone is interested in getting hold of an arc, do drop me a line…
Last week I read: The Mother Code by Carol Stivers The year is 2049. When a deadly non-viral agent intended for biowarfare spreads out of control, scientists must scramble to ensure the survival of the human race. They turn to their last resort, a plan to place genetically engineered children inside the cocoons of large-scale robots–to be incubated, birthed, and raised by machines. But there is yet one hope of preserving the human order–an intelligence programmed into these machines that renders each unique in its own right–the Mother Code.
Kai is born in America’s desert southwest, his only companion his robot Mother, Rho-Z. Equipped with the knowledge and motivations of a human mother, Rho-Z raises Kai and teaches him how to survive. But as children like Kai come of age, their Mothers transform too–in ways that were never predicted. When government survivors decide that the Mothers must be destroyed, Kai must make a choice. Will he break the bond he shares with Rho-Z? Or will he fight to save the only parent he has ever known? I enjoyed this one – but it could have been so much better, if Stivers had been a bit more focused on exactly whose story she wanted to tell, rather than trying to do it all… Review to follow.
AUDIOBOOK Finding the Fox – Book 1 of The Shapeshifter series by Ali Sparkes Dax Jones is an ordinary schoolboy – until something extraordinary happens one day. Whilst frightened for his life, he inexplicably changes into a fox. Before long, both a government agent and an ambitious young journalist are on his tail. I love this author’s writing – and this shapeshifting adventure didn’t disappoint. Very highly recommended for youngsters between the ages of 9-12. Review to follow.
The Last Astronaut by David Wellington Sally Jansen was NASA’s leading astronaut, until a mission to Mars ended in disaster. Haunted by her failure, she lives in quiet anonymity, convinced her days in space are over. She’s wrong. A large alien object has entered the solar system on a straight course toward Earth. It has made no attempt to communicate and is ignoring all incoming transmissions. Out of time and out of options, NASA turns to Jansen. For all the dangers of the mission, it’s the shot at redemption she always longed for. If I’d known that Wellington wrote horror, then I probably would have given this one a miss – which would have been a shame, because it was a real treat. He manages to deliver after the long, tense build-up, producing aliens that are genuinely different and terrifying. And the ending is brilliantly handled. Review to follow.
Deadly Waters by Dot Hutchison Florida journalism undergrad Rebecca Sorley is like any other college student. She tries to keep up with her studies, her friends, and her hot-tempered roommate, Ellie, who regularly courts trouble with the law. When a male student’s remains are found in alligator-infested waters, the university warns students to stay away from the reptiles. But then a second body shows up, and the link is undeniable. Both men belonged to the same fraternity and had a reputation for preying on and hurting women. Ellie has previously threatened to kill men who don’t take no for an answer. Rebecca and her friends thought Ellie was kidding. But now a vigilante killer is roaming campus—someone who knows how to dispose of rapists. Someone determined to save female students from horrible crimes. I thoroughly enjoyed this one, where the rising body count wasn’t a stack of attractive young women – but young men who were sexual predators. The plotting is well done and this one was a memorable page-turner. Review to follow.
The Ghost Fields – Book 7 of the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths Norfolk is experiencing a July heatwave when a construction crew unearths a macabre discovery – a buried WWII plane with the pilot still inside. Forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway quickly realizes that the skeleton couldn’t possibly be the pilot, and DNA tests identify the man as Fred Blackstock, a local aristocrat who had been reported dead at sea. When the remaining members of the Blackstock family learn about the discovery, they seem strangely frightened by the news… I’m really enjoying this series – as much for the unfolding stories of the supporting cast, as for the actual crime dramas that are featured. Ruth’s growing confidence and watching her struggles as a single mother holding down a demanding job gives these books extra readability. Mini-review to follow.
Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:
The Green Man’s Silence – where did these particular ideas come from? http://www.julietemckenna.com/?p=3208I’ve loved the unique blend of urban fantasy and old English folk tales in this particular series – so I’m fascinated by how McKenna mixes up the influences…
This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.
The week started off wet, but since midweek we’ve had a series of hot, sunny days again. So on Wednesday, my daughter invited me to join her and the children at Swanbourne Lake in Arundel for a picnic. While it was very busy, everyone was mindful and socially distancing, which was good to see. We had lunch right by a wild flower meadow, watching butterflies and grasshoppers, which was a treat. We then walked around the lake at little Eliza’s pace until she got tired enough to return to her pushchair and rounded off the outing with an ice cream treat. Lovely! The pics this week are from Swanbourne Lake.
On Thursday, Himself and I needed to shop in town – and afterwards visited our first café for a cup of tea and piece of cake since lockdown. There was plenty of space inside as many people were sitting outside and we really appreciated this slight return to normality. I was due to go shopping with my sister, but she woke up yesterday morning in agony with sciatica, so I took my TENS machine over, along with some shopping and by the time I left she was feeling a lot better. I returned home to find Himself rather flustered. A fledgling gull being herded out of the garden, instead hopped into the kitchen and wandered through the ground floor. Luckily Himself managed to manoeuvre it out of the front door! We’ll be glad when the young gulls have got the hang of flying…
Last week I read: Last Dragon Standing – Book 5 of the Heartstrikers series by Rachel Aaron There is no way to write a blurb for this final book without spoiling all of the others. Suffice it to say, mysteries resolve, dragons war, pigeons abound, and Julius must risk himself in ways he never dreamed possible as Bob’s grand plan finally comes to fruition.
But the Great Seer of the Heartstrikers isn’t the only one whose schemes are nearing completion. The Nameless End is coming, and even the machinations of the world’s most brilliant dragon seer might not be enough to stop it. As the world comes crashing down, it’s up Julius to prove what he’s always known: that seers can be wrong, and Nice Dragons don’t always finish last. I’ve loved this series. Dragons… mages… ghost cat… and a cracking climactic battle that lasts most of the book. Aaron manages to round everything up in a suitably dramatic fashion. Review to follow.
The Relentless Moon – Book 3 of the Lady Astronaut series by Mary Robinette Kowal The Earth is coming to the boiling point as the climate disaster of the Meteor strike becomes more and more clear, but the political situation is already overheated. Riots and sabotage plague the space program. The IAC’s goal of getting as many people as possible off Earth before it becomes uninhabitable is being threatened.
Elma York is on her way to Mars, but the Moon colony is still being established. Her friend and fellow Lady Astronaut Nicole Wargin is thrilled to be one of those pioneer settlers, using her considerable flight and political skills to keep the program on track. But she is less happy that her husband, the Governor of Kansas, is considering a run for President. Wow! I’ve loved the previous two books in Elma’s pov, but this last book in the trilogy is just fantastic. Nicole is a fabulous protagonist and the tense cat and mouse thriller this book develops into had me reading into the night. One of my outstandings reads of the year so far. Review to follow.
The Outcast Dead – Book 6 of the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths Forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway uncovers the bones of a Victorian murderess while a baby snatcher threatens modern-day Norfolk in this exciting new entry in a beloved series. Every year a ceremony is held in Norwich for the bodies in the paupers’ graves: the Service for the Outcast Dead. Ruth has a particular interest in this year’s proceedings. Her recent dig at Norwich Castle turned up the body of the notorious Mother Hook, who was hanged in 1867 for the murder of five children. Now Ruth is the reluctant star of the TV series Women Who Kill, working alongside the program’s alluring history expert, Professor Frank Barker.
DCI Harry Nelson is immersed in the case of three children found dead in their home. He is sure that the mother is responsible. Then another child is abducted and a kidnapper dubbed the Childminder claims responsibility. Are there two murderers afoot, or is the Childminder behind all the deaths? The team must race to find out-and the stakes couldn’t be any higher when another child goes missing. If I’d known in advance this one was all about child abductions, I probably would have given it a miss, but I didn’t realise until I was properly caught up in the story – and by then I was hooked. Still enjoying watching Ruth grow in confidence professionally and as a mother. Mini-review to follow.
AUDIOBOOK The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents – Book 28 of the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett Maurice and the rats have teamed up with a young lad named Keith to implement a clever moneymaking scheme. Upon entering a town, the rats make a general nuisance of themselves — stealing food and widdling on things — until the townsfolk become desperate to get rid of them. Then Maurice and Keith appear on the scene and offer to save the day by ridding the town of its infestation for a small fee. It seems like a surefire plan until the group arrives in the town of Bad Blintz and gets hooked up with Malicia, a young girl with a vivid imagination and a knack for finding trouble. When it’s discovered that Bad Blintz already has a rat problem — one that a couple of shifty-eyed rat catchers claim to have under control — things turn deadly. Pratchett’s magic goes on working its charm. There are some hefty themes tackled in this apparently innocuous children’s adventure featuring a talking cat, some talking rats and a not-quite-so-chatty orphan hoping to make his way in the world. Review to follow.
I’ll be honest – the cover didn’t do it for me at all. In fact, it probably had the opposite effect, but the opening sentence of the blurb mentioned a single-parent mother as the protagonist and I was suddenly very interested…
BLURB: Pregnant and alone at twenty-one, Chandler Parrish sought refuge within the Northern Circle coven’s secluded complex. Never revealing the identity of her child’s father, Chandler has raised her now eight-year-old son, Peregrine, in peace, and used her talent as an artist and welder to become a renowned metal sculptor. But her world is shaken to the core when Peregrine shows signs of natural faerie sight—a rare and dangerous gift to see through faerie glamour and disguises that could only have come from his father’s genes. Worse yet, the boy has seen a monstrous faerie creature trailing Lionel Parker, a magic-obsessed journalist determined to expose the witching world.
But the very man who threatens the witches’ anonymity may also be key to healing Chandler’s long broken heart. As dangerous desires and shocking secrets entangle, new faerie threats and demonic foes close in on the coven and High Council. Loyalties will be tested. Fierce magics will be called upon. And Chandler will have to face her past to save all she holds dear: her coven, her child—and perhaps even her own soul.
REVIEW: It is relatively rare to find mothers looking out for their children within urban fantasy, so I was immediately attracted by this dynamic and was delighted to be able to get hold of this one. Which was when I discovered it was the third book in the series… However, while I’m sure that if I’d gone back to the beginning and read these books in the correct order, I would have benefitted from a deeper, richer knowledge of the characters and the ongoing dynamic, Esden has made it possible to crash into this series without readers unduly struggling.
I quickly bonded with gutsy Chandler, who makes things out of metal and is fiercely protective of her young son. There is a strong backstory which has the Northern Circle coven still reeling from the aftereffects and adds to the tension when apparently another threat turns up, perhaps related to the previous trouble.
Overall, this was an entertaining and smooth read with plenty going on, a nice magical system and sympathetic characters. The romantic thread had a bit of heat, but it wasn’t too steamy – while the climactic denouement worked well. I enjoyed the resolution and recommend this urban fantasy adventure to those who enjoy stories involving witchcraft. Though I’d advise you begin with the first book, His Dark Magic. While I obtained an arc of Entangled Secrets from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own. 8/10