Tag Archives: outstanding books

Review of Ebook Terms of Enlistment – Book 1 of the Frontlines series by Marko Kloos #Brainfluffbookreview #TermsofEnlistmentbookreview

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Marko Kloos is one of the authors that Himself has mentioned more than once, so when I asked for more science fiction reads for Sci Fi Month, he suggested I read this series.

The year is 2108, and the North American Commonwealth is bursting at the seams. For welfare rats like Andrew Grayson, there are only two ways out of the crime-ridden and filthy welfare tenements, where you’re restricted to two thousand calories of badly flavored soy every day. You can hope to win the lottery and draw a ticket on a colony ship settling off-world, or you can join the service. With the colony lottery a pipe dream, Andrew chooses to enlist in the armed forces for a shot at real food, a retirement bonus, and maybe a ticket off Earth. But as he starts a career of supposed privilege, he soon learns that the good food and decent health care come at a steep price…and that the settled galaxy holds far greater dangers than military bureaucrats or the gangs that rule the slums.

I really enjoyed this one. Kloos is clearly a talented and experienced author, who gives us a sympathetic, slightly taciturn protagonist with something of an edge, especially when things were going wrong and that edge turns into dark humour. Grayson tucks into boot camp and prepares to tough it out – not that he finds it too much of a struggle, given the dire conditions in the tenement where he grew up. I’m a sucker for school/learning environments, given what a pressure cooker they can be and was perfectly willing for the whole thing to last a lot longer than it did. When the story moved on and Grayson progresses from being a trainee to becoming a newbie, I enjoyed it. The action is engrossing and feels authentic, with the detailed worldbuilding.

And then came a pivotal moment in the narrative when it all hits the fan and the story takes a left turn into something completely different. I couldn’t put it down. My heart was beating and my palms sweated as I read one of the best battle scenes I’ve encountered during a sortie that goes terribly wrong…

As I came to the conclusion of the scene, I looked at the book, surprised we weren’t closer to the end of the book – surely this was the climactic showpiece to this slice of the story? No – what Kloos then does is change the pacing again and take the story off into another direction. Grayson is then given a different set of challenges that give us further insights into his character, before finishing this excellent start to the series. I’m looking forward to getting my teeth into the next book.

Highly recommended for fans of military science fiction adventures.
10/10

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Review of KINDLE Ebook The Lost Steersman – Book 3 of The Steerswoman series by Rosemary Kirstein

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I was delighted to once more dive into this wonderful series – and it didn’t disappoint…

How do you find someone? How, if you have never seen him, never heard him described, did not know where he lived? How, if he wished not to be found? And how, most especially, if he were the most powerful wizard in the world?

The steerswoman Rowan has discovered that the fall of the Guidestar and the massacre of Outskirter tribes were caused by one man: the secret master-wizard, Slado. But until now, no steerswoman had known of his existence, nor knew that the wizards answered to any single authority. Now, Rowan must find him. She comes to the seaside town of Alemeth, where centuries of records might help her find clues for her search. Then, an unexpected encounter with a lost friend: Janus, a steersman who had resigned his membership in the Steerswomen, giving no explanation. Now Rowan has hope for help in her search — but Janus has changed. The bright intellect is shrouded in a dark, shattered spirit…

This book absolutely filled the brief of completely absorbing me from the first page to the last, which I finished once more blown away by where Kirstein has taken this amazing series.

I love Rowan. She is a strong, capable protagonist who is consumed with curiosity about the world around her – which is why she trained to be a Steerswoman in the first place. Steerwomen undertake long, arduous journeys mapping and logging the landscape and are bound to answer any questions put to them by the local populace, unless someone refuses to answer one of their questions. So part explorer, cartographer, naturalist and educator… It’s a really nifty plot device to get a skilled, capable cadre of people out on the road without resorting to war. Over the last three books, I’ve come to be aware of her weaknesses as well as her strengths. She has an over-developed sense of responsibility and is poor at delegating jobs to others – and while she is good at moving through a landscape and keeping on good terms with the people around her, she tends to hold herself somewhat aloof.

This means that once she arrives in Alemeth, where the retired Steerswoman has recently died and they are awaiting a replacement – the villagers contrast her unfavourably with chatty, manipulative Mira. I love the fact that all these books can be read as a standalone without too much difficulty – however if you do read them in the right order (and for a wonder, this time around I have…) then they stitch together to build into a coherent adventure where the consequences of not tracking down Slado could be devastating. However, there is a wrinkle – once Rowan arrives, the village is attacked by a creature never seen before in those parts… I’m not saying any more as I do not want to venture into spoiler territory – but suffice to say that I’m so very impressed at the sheer peculiarity of the creatures that populate her fantasy landscape, along with the flora. Kirstein has built an amazingly detailed and plausible world without holding up the pace.

The twisting turns in this adventurous tale take meant that I stayed up late to read this one – it’s a reasonably substantial read at well over 400 pages, but they more or less turned themselves as I was desperate to know what happened next. This particular story arc was satisfactorily brought to a close – but the overarching narrative has now got an additional disturbing and dangerous strand which has added to the worldwide threat.

I have been spacing these books out, as I didn’t want to reach the end too quickly – but I am delighted to note that Kirstein is working on the fifth and sixth book in the series. Yippee! Highly recommended for all fans of excellent fantasy.
10/10

Time Tag

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Many thanks to Lynn from Lynn’s Book Blog for nominating me to take part in this lovely tag.

What is your favourite historical setting for a book?
I love the Tudor period – it’s the period I studied for my History degree so I know a reasonable amount about the history of this time. But I also enjoy the Victorian time – events moved so very quickly during that it was a period of great upheaval and yet isn’t all that long ago. So… both these periods tend to snag my interest.

 

What writer/s would you like to travel back in time to meet?
William Shakespeare. It’s a no-brainer. The genius that gave us a canon of marvellous plays and beautiful poetry must be worth sitting across the table and chatting to! Even if he only wants to grumble about the weather and the difficulties of finding a boy to adequately play Juliet – especially if he wants to grumble about that one, come to think of it…

 

What book/s would you travel back in time and give to your younger self?
It would have to be C.J. Cherryh’s Heavy Time. Her writing style and depiction of space just blew me away. My younger self would love to read this and derive a great sense of comfort to discover that books like that were in existence as I was getting increasingly disillusioned with many of the contemporary literary offerings I was ploughing through at the time.

 

What book/s would you travel forward in time and give to your older self?
I wouldn’t bother. My older self is going to be caught up with the books being published at the time, so my crashing into her reading patterns won’t probably be very welcome. I don’t take kindly to sudden surprises…

 

What is your favourite futuristic setting from a book?
I have three… two based on Earth and one that sees us out in the among the stars. One of the most poignant and effective settings is the depiction of a nearly empty Paris, overrun by alien vegetation from portals drawn by Eric Brown in his novel Engineman. To be honest, the story itself isn’t quite as effective as the setting in my opinion – but I’ve dreamed of this landscape many times. The other futuristic setting I particularly enjoy is that in the Earth Girl series by Janet Edwards, where Earth is largely uninhabited apart from those who are unable to leave due to a genetic quirk.

I also love the world that Lois McMaster Bujold has created in her Miles Vorkosigan series that sprawls across a chain of planets.

 

What is your favourite book that is set in a different time period (can be historical or futuristic)?
I love several – Doomsday is a classic time travel book by Connie Willis that goes back to the medieval period. It’s a wonderful book and rightly regarded as a classic. Another book that I particularly love is the above mentioned Heavy Time by C.J. Cherryh, but my favourite is Mendoza in Hollywood which is a dreadful title for an outstanding book by Kage Baker about a time-travelling biologist harvesting plants about to be pushed into the brink of extinction by the growth of the film industry. It is part of Baker’s amazing The Company series, which I think deserves to be known a lot better than it is.

 

Spoiler Time: Do you ever skip ahead to the end of a book just to see what happens?
Only if I don’t intend to finish the book – otherwise what is the point of bothering to read it?

 

If you had a Time Turner, where would you go and what would you do?
Oh yes please! And now I’m going to sound incredibly boring… I’d like to use one like Hermione Granger so I could fulfil my teaching commitments, keep the house reasonably clean and clutter-free, be a better wife, daughter, mother and grandmother, while also writing full-time.

 

Favourite book (if you have one) that includes time travel or takes place in multiple time periods?
I cannot possibly pinpoint a single book, so I’ll follow Lynn’s example and recommend four, other than the ones already mentioned above:-
Night Watch – Book 29 of the Discworld novels by the late, great Terry Pratchett

This is Pratchett’s time travel book – and one of his best, in my opinion, as Sam Vimes, the grumpy Commander of the Ankh-Morpork’s police force, is caught up in a magical storm and hauled back in time.

 

The Many-Colored Land – Book 1 of the Saga of the Exiles by Julian May

This first book in a remarkable, ground-breaking series features Elizabeth who travels back in time to escape the trauma of having lost her metaphysical abilities. Ironically, her journey – in which she encounters a humanoid alien race who have made Earth their home – causes her abilities to manifest themselves once more. Which draws down a lot of unwelcome attention upon Elizabeth…

Frozen in Time by Ali Sparkes

This standalone children’s book is a joy. A brother and sister cryonically suspended are accidentally woken up fifty years later by another brother and sister, while exploring an underground building at the bottom of the garden. The resulting adventure is both funny and very revealing about how customs have changed during the last fifty years – for both good and ill.

 

 

The Just City – Book 1 of the Thessaly trilogy by Jo Walton

This is a remarkable time travel experiment designed by the goddess Athene to test the principles set down by Plato in his book The Republic. I can guarantee you won’t have read anything quite like it.

 

What book/series do you wish you could go back and read again for the first time?
The Discworld novels! They define a part of my life and if I could bottle the sheer excitement of opening up a new one, laughing at the Pratchett jokes for the first time again, that would be a wonderful treat.

I’m not going to nominate anyone in particular – but do please have a go if this Time Tag appeals to you as a fan of historical settings or time travelling adventures. I’d love to hear your choices!

Shoot for the Moon Challenge 2016 – August Roundup

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Now that I have the opportunity to get down to some uninterrupted work during this moonbreak, how am I progressing with the ambitious targets I set myself waaay back in the dying hours of 2015?
• I had another really brilliant reading month in August, reading 15 books again and reviewing all but two. Once more, it was a delight to have so many really good books to read – I loved Autonomy by Jude Houghton, which raises some uncomfortable questions in amongst a cracking post-apocalyptic, near future thriller; Janet Edwards’ Telepath was such fun – I really love her writing and Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Spiderlight was another gem from this talented, award-winning writer. But the two outstanding reads this month for me were Spellbreaker by Blake Charlton and N.K. Jemisin’s The Obelisk Gate, the second book in her fabulous Broken Earth series.
Challenge – To review a minimum of 100 books during 2016 and widen my reading to include more authors new to me. As I have now read 106 books and reviewed all but a handful, this challenge has been achieved. Thanks to Netgalley, I am continuing to come across authors unknown to me and broaden my reading.

• I have continued to submit my work – another of my challenges I’ve been working on – which has entailed some major rewriting. I worked on the opening of Miranda’s Tempest at the front end of August, which went reasonably smoothly and then had another go at Netted. It is by far the hardest rewrite I’ve ever undertaken and twice since attempting it, I’ve ground to a halt. I’ve learnt these days that when I stare at the page and my mind blanks, I need to take the hint and walk away. If I try pushing through it, I write rubbish which just compounds the problem. I now need to make an editing pass and hopefully, get the manuscript in a fit state for resubmission by the end of the month.
Challenge – To continue to submit my novels.

• I am in the process of writing my course notes for this term’s Creative Writing class, which starts in a fortnight. Obviously, this deadline isn’t optional.
Challenge – To have two of my four courses written by the end of the summer break. No – that isn’t going to happen. The rewrites that popped up out of nowhere took a large bite out of my writing schedule this month and I am playing catchup with a number of other tasks.

I wrote just over 16,500 words on my blog in August and around 20,500 words on rewrites. With a paltry 500 words on teaching admin, my monthly total came to just over 37,500 words for the month, bringing my wordcount for the year so far to just over 200,000. What were your favourite August books? Do you read more in the summer or winter?

Shoot for the Moon Challenge 2016 – July Roundup

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High summer is here. So how did I do with my targets during July?
• I’ve now completed the line edit of Breathing Space and have also finished the timeline edit of Running Out of Space, Dying for Space and am on the last lap with Breathing Space.
Challenge – To have The Sunblinded trilogy published during 2016. Still on track…

• I had a great reading month in July, reading 15 books in all and reviewing all but one of them – and moonthat was only because it was the next in a series I’d recently covered and felt I did not have a great deal more to say. There were some excellent books in amongst that selection. I very much enjoyed Louisa Hall’s thought provoking Speak and Jane Lythell’s Woman of the Hour was a strong start to an entertaining, original series – however the two books that were outstanding reads for me this month were N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season and Foz Meadows’ An Accident of Stars.
Challenge – To review a minimum of 100 books during 2016 and widen my reading to include more authors new to me. I wasn’t expecting to be reading quite so much – but as I’m still editing, I find I need to keep plunging into other worlds to keep my head straight. This takes the number of books read so far to 91 books, so this challenge is clearly nailed.

• My one-day Summer Surgery course on Friday 22nd July went really well – I’m glad I have planned an identical course next year. Both my Monday evening and Tuesday afternoon courses starting in September are now full.
Challenge – To have at least two of the four courses I hope to run next year planned and written by the end of the summer holiday. Yes… this should be doable.

There are also a couple of my 2016 Shoot for Moon challenges that I am working on – but right now I’m not saying anymore, as I don’t want to jinx things… It’s exciting and terrifying in equal measure and hopefully I will be in a position to fully update everyone in due course. I wrote just over 20,500 words on my blog in July and just under 6,500 words on teaching admin. I also wrote a number of query letters and synopses which took my overall writing total to just over 29,000 words for the month. This takes my yearly total to just under 164,000 words. How are you getting on with your August reading targets? Do you find the weather affects your reading habits?