Tag Archives: post-apocalytic science fiction

Teaser Tuesday – 1st October, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #TeaserTuesday

Standard

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:

Netted by S.J. Higbee

1% ‘This is the way we stamp on our clothes…’ We sang the usual washing song.
Well, I sang it. Hardy bawled the words at the top of his voice.
We were having a lot of fun, so why was I thinking of Cora and Raif? In a flyer. Looking drawn and sad. Raif, in particular, was dreading the moment they’d arrive at the cabin and start the task of clearing out the place. Still guilt-reamed. Still uselessly wishing he’d done it differently.
If only I’d kept my cave-sized mouth shut. If only I hadn’t suggested Boyce take Kris to the cabin, they’d be alive today. And we wouldn’t be here…
I froze, tingling with shock. They’re on their way. Here. Now.
Hardy jerked my hands. ‘Mama, Mama, dance. Again.’
I stared down at my waterbaby. Your whole life is about to change. Every single thing in it will be different from this day forward. And there’s nothing I can do to stop it.
Because right on the heels of the knowledge that we were about to be rescued, was the sharp-edged realisation that I didn’t want to return to Sebago Hold.

BLURB: In post-apocalyptic Maine, safety is the highest priority. Every citizen is Netted, their thoughts monitored for homicidal, lawless impulses. But being Netted can cause as many problems as it solves.

Years after everyone thought they’d died, a young family are discovered, safe and sound, living in the wilderness. As their delighted relations race to pick them up, Boyce is overwhelmed with relief that the daily battle to keep their small son, Hardy, safe has been lifted from his shoulders.

His wife, Kris, dreads returning to the settlement where she was born and raised. Her mental powers make living among others difficult, even dangerous, but even she is unprepared for the catastrophic events that follows.

Safety comes at a price.

I have cheated a bit today. This offering, published by Grimbold Publishing, is being released today. So I’ve taken the opportunity to feature the opening passage on today’s Teaser Tuesday as something of a celebration. It’s a bit different from my own self-published work, but I hope readers will still find a good, twisty story and strong characters they either love, or love to hate. Though I’m a bit startled to discover that one of the bookshops has got it down as science fiction erotica! I’m not quite sure which version they’ve been reading, but I don’t think it’s the one I’ve written.

NETTED Cover Reveal!

Standard

My near-future science fiction adventure, Netted, set in post-apocalyptic Maine is due to be released on 1st October by Grimbold Publishing – and here is the cover! My super-friend Mhairi, who designed it, has done a fabulous job. I particularly love the title font…

 

BLURB: In post-apocalyptic Maine, safety is the highest priority. Every citizen is Netted, their thoughts monitored for homicidal, lawless impulses. But being Netted can cause as many problems as it solves.

Years after everyone thought they’d died, a young family are discovered, safe and sound,
living in the wilderness. As their delighted relations race to pick them up, Boyce is
overwhelmed with relief that the daily battle to keep their small son, Hardy, safe has been
lifted from his shoulders.

His wife, Kris, dreads returning to the settlement where she was born and raised. Her mental
powers make living among others difficult, even dangerous, but even she is unprepared for
the catastrophic events that follow.
Safety comes at a price.

Below is the opening section of the book to give you an idea of whether it’s your kind of read – if you would like a review copy, let me know in the comment section below. I have EPUB and MOBI versions available.

CHAPTER ONE
Kris
‘This is the way we stamp on our clothes…’ We sang the usual washing song.

Well, I sang it. Hardy bawled the words at the top of his voice.

We were having a lot of fun, so why was I thinking of Cora and Raif? In a flyer. Looking drawn and sad. Raif, in particular, was dreading the moment they’d arrive at the cabin and start the task of clearing out the place. Still guilt-reamed. Still uselessly wishing he’d done it differently. If only I’d kept my cave-sized mouth shut. If only I hadn’t suggested Boyce take Kris to the cabin, they’d be alive today. And we wouldn’t be here…

I froze, tingling with shock. They’re on their way. Here. Now.

Hardy jerked my hands. ‘Mama, Mama, dance. Again.’

I stared down at my waterbaby. Your whole life is about to change. Every single thing in it will be different from this day forward. And there’s nothing I can do to stop it.

Because right on the heels of the knowledge that we were about to be rescued, was the sharp-edged realisation that I didn’t want to return to Sebago Hold.

Before I had time to absorb this info-bomb, Boyce’s excitement fizzed across my mind like a glowing firework. For sure, Kris – they’re really coming? We’ve done it! Kept Hardy alive and well. All these years… His relief and joy was so intense I could taste it.

My skin heated with his emotion, while my own reaction shrank to a cold ball in the pit of my stomach as I scooped up a protesting Hardy and made for the cabin. Being naked when I met my in-laws for the first time in four years wasn’t an option. I jigged Hardy in my arms as I ran up the path, stilling his yells over our interrupted water play, wishing I could shield him from all the change about to cascade around him.
Boyce sprinted along the lake path, his delight pulsing through me.

Has he really hated it out here so much? It was a hurtful thought. I watched the muscles flex beneath his tanned skin, his sunbleached hair streaming behind him, aware I wouldn’t see him like this again for a long time. If ever… Back in the cabin, I hauled on some clothes, then rushed around tidying up so Raif and Cora wouldn’t think I hadn’t been looking after things.

While Boyce pulled on a pair of trousers, I heard him mentally debating whether to suggest that it wouldn’t matter to his parents if the table was cluttered with breakfast things. So I felt better when he joined in my frantic efforts to make the place look more suitable for visitors.

Visitors. Here in the cabin. It felt plain wrong.

Boyce looked across at Hardy, who’d retreated under the table with his sticks and stones. Should you get him dressed?

Hardy was going through a phase of not wanting to wear clothes, and I hadn’t bothered to butt heads with him about it. Who was around to care? In this humid summer heat, I couldn’t blame him. I reconsidered – should I put him in a shirt? I shuddered at the thought of his screams while he ripped it off as soon as he could. Not the best way to meet his grandparents for the first time, that was for sure.
I sensed Boyce’s agreement, along with an undercurrent of anxiety that they’d approve of Hardy.

Another hurtful thought. It’s not their business. They haven’t the right to judge us. No one else knows what it’s been like, raising a child out here. But even as I railed against it, I knew that everyone would be watching our son, drawing their own conclusions over his behaviour. I stopped ramming the dirty crocks in the solar steriliser and shut my eyes. This is just some weird dream. Please…

Boyce folded me in his arms. It’ll be fine. You’ll see. I understand why you’re afraid – but things will be better.

I tried to smile up at him. But that was the problem with being NetLinked. He knew just how I felt. And the fact that we saw this business so differently wasn’t helping one bit.

Which was when we heard the flyer. Boyce sped down to the beach, frantically rushing around with stones and bits of stick. Hardy emerged from under the table and scampered off to join him. Hardy majorly related to sticks and stones. I shoved more stuff under the bed and cursed my decision to skip indoor chores in favour of washing the blankets. And I tried – very hard – to feel excited at the prospect of returning to Sebago.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of INDIE Ebook Hurricane Book 3 for the Hive Mind series by Janet Edwards #Brainfluffbookblog #Hurricanebookreview

Standard

Regular visitors to this site will know that I am a fan of Edwards’ writing. She has written several entertaining YA science fiction series – the best-known being the Earth Girl series, see my review of Earth Girl. The Hive Mind series, featuring the adventures of telepath Amber – see my review of the first book, Telepath – has also become a solid favourite, so I was delighted when the author contacted me and asked me to read a review copy of Hurricane in return for an honest opinion of the book.

Eighteen-year-old Amber is the youngest of the five telepaths who protect the hundred million citizens of one of the great hive cities of twenty-sixth century Earth. Her job is hunting down criminals before they commit their crimes, but this time a simple case leads on to something far bigger. This is a case where Amber’s team have to face the unknown and break all the rules they usually follow, while Amber has extra burdens she can’t share with anyone. She has a personal mystery to solve, and questions she wants answered, but curiosity is a dangerous trait in a telepath.

As with all Edwards’ books, we see the world through the viewpoint of the young protagonist, so we only know what she knows, therefore I was delighted that Hurricane gives us more information about the worldbuilding. It appears – this will doubtless come as a great shock to you – that the leaders of the Hive aren’t completely honest with their citizens and keep secret some important details about how the society functions.

In this interesting instalment, Amber and her team find themselves solving a major crime outside the Hive where she learns a lot more about a hitherto hidden aspect of the workings of the Hive. Obviously, I’m not going to reveal those aspects as I’d be straying into Spoiler territory, but a lot more things made sense regarding the longterm viability of the society which wasn’t bothering me, but had concerned Himself. Alongside my increased understanding of this intriguing post-apocalyptic setup, Edwards also delivers another tension-filled crime adventure featuring a series of malicious attacks that trip into something far darker and more harmful. It is Amber’s task to discover who the murderer is by reading the culprit’s intention – far harder when everyone’s mental landscape differs so markedly from what she’s used to. And there are potentially dire consequences if she cannot find the perpetrator, so there’s plenty at stake.

I’ve enjoyed following Amber’s story from the beginning and though it is only eight months since the events of the first book, she has significantly matured – hardly surprising given the responsibility she is shouldering. There is also an intriguing sub-plot surrounding one of the other telepaths, which gives us an insight into what can happen when things go wrong.

This society is under enormous pressure, given that the population density is very high and the authorities are keen for everyone to feel a reasonable degree of happiness – if they didn’t, then mayhem would quickly ensue. I’ve found myself thinking a lot about this book since I’ve finished reading it – always a sure sign that it’s something a bit special that’s delivered above and beyond the engrossing story that held me throughout. Highly recommended for fans of enjoyable YA science fiction, this is the best of the series so far.
10/10

Friday Faceoff – Had I the heaven’s embroidered cloths… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoff

Standard

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 currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and the theme this week to feature on any of our covers is a starry sky. I’ve selected The Space Between the Stars by Anne Corlett – see my review here.

 

This edition was produced by Berkley in June 2017 and is my favourite. I think the starscape is absolutely beautiful and also suits the mood and content of the story. It also works really well as a thumbnail. If I had a quibble, it would be that I wish the title and author font had been given a bit more love and attention as they are rather boring.

 

Published in June 2017 by Pan Macmillan, this cover is eye-catching and reasonably attractive, though I don’t like it as much as the previous effort. However I do like the bright orange lettering, which works well against the backdrop. My main misgiving is that the book deals with the aftermath of a lethal virus and this cover looks a bit too cosy for the content.

 

This Italian edition, published by Leggereditore in June 2017, suffers from the same issue as the previous cover – it almost looks as though it could be a cover for a children’s book. And while this isn’t the gory type of post-apocalyptic story, the themes are only suitable for adults.

 

This edition, produced by Pan in March 2018 is an interesting example of what a difference an alternative colour scheme can make to the same design. I far prefer this version as I think both the orange lettering and the sky stands out more effectively. I also like the fact the woman is moving, rather than standing still.

 

This cover was published in November 2017 by Thorndike Press Large Print and is my least favourite. I’ve no quarrel with starscapes – in fact I’m a real sucker for them, but this is a particularly charmless effort with hardly any stars. It looks as though someone has knocked together this cover after browsing Shutterstock for all of ten minutes. Which one of these is your favourite?

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Wild Dead – Book 2 of The Bannerless Saga by Carrie Vaughn #Brainfluffbookreview #TheWildDeadbookreview

Standard

I loved Vaughn’s YA space opera adventure Martians Abroad – see my review here – so when this one popped up on Netgalley, I immediately requested it and I’m so very glad I did…

A century after environmental and economic collapse, the people of the Coast Road have rebuilt their own sort of civilization, striving not to make the mistakes their ancestors did. They strictly ration and manage resources, including the ability to have children. Enid of Haven is an investigator, who with her new partner, Teeg, is called on to mediate a dispute over an old building in a far-flung settlement at the edge of Coast Road territory. The investigators’ decision seems straightforward — and then the body of a young woman turns up in the nearby marshland. Almost more shocking than that, she’s not from the Coast Road, but from one of the outsider camps belonging to the nomads and wild folk who live outside the Coast Road communities. Now one of them is dead, and Enid wants to find out who killed her, even as Teeg argues that the murder isn’t their problem. In a dystopian future of isolated communities, can our moral sense survive the worst hard times?

Post-apocalyptic society is slowly recovering, though with far less resources. As far-flung communities live hard-scrabbled lives by scavenging and living off the land, law and order is imposed by travelling investigators. Enid is one such investigator, paired with a newbie and on a straightforward assignment that should have her returning home for the birth of a longed-for baby. And then, just as they are in the process of wrapping up the issue that brought them to Estuary, a dead body is found, washed up on the mud flats…

The world is beautifully depicted through Enid’s first person viewpoint. I felt the humidity, the reek of the mud and got to know the shocked, cagey characters living there. They were already wary of investigators due to a twenty-year-old scandal involving one of the women cutting out her birth control implant – a major infraction in a society where resources are so very scarce and birth rates are rigidly controlled to ensure no one starves. Even after all this time, Neeve is still ostracised by her neighbours and banished to Far House, where she lives with others who don’t really fit in. So no one is freely talking the investigators and Enid is left with a sense that there is something else going on…

This is a cracking whodunit. Enid is a sympathetic, capable protagonist with years of experience behind her and yet yearning to return home in time to be there at the birth of the baby – a baby that her efforts have helped to bring into being by earning the banner that allows her family to reproduce. She is further hampered by her raw new partner, who pounces on a pet theory and won’t let it go. The tension rises, along with the stakes, as Enid is determined to discover who the unknown young woman is and why she has been murdered. I picked this one up and couldn’t put it down until I reached the end. Though I had guessed part of the puzzle, I was still shocked to discover the perpetrator. Highly recommended for fans of science fiction murder mysteries. While I obtained an arc of The Wild Dead from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
10/10

Review of Kindle Ebook The Stone Sky – Book 3 of The Broken Earth trilogy by N.K. Jemisin

Standard

I’ll be honest – I’ve had The Stone Sky for some weeks and have been putting off reading it because the first two books, The Fifth Season and The Obelisk Gate were such powerful reads, I didn’t want to risk being disappointed if the ending was fumbled. Fortunately, I came to my senses and realised that the slew of glowing reviews evidently meant this hadn’t happened.

THIS IS THE WAY THE WORLD ENDS… FOR THE LAST TIME.

The Moon will soon return. Whether this heralds the destruction of humankind or something worse will depend on two women. Essun has inherited the power of Alabaster Tenring. With it, she hopes to find her daughter Nassun and forge a world in which every orogene child can grow up safe. For Nassun, her mother’s mastery of the Obelisk Gate comes too late. She has seen the evil of the world and accepted what her mother will not admit: that sometimes what is corrupt cannot be cleansed, only destroyed.

I’ve been interested to note that some people classify this series as fantasy, while others, like me, regard it as mostly science fiction with a fantastic twist. While it is probably one of the most epic, wide-ranging stories I’ll read – given that it tackles humanity’s complicated and grim relationship with their home planet – at its heart is a mother’s desperate search for a lost child who was snatched by her father after committing an unthinkable crime. A crime that most would have regarded as wholly justified.

In addition, there is that viewpoint – the one I am always advising my creative writing students never to use – the second person POV, ‘you’. And yet, I dived back into this POV without so much as blinking. I regularly gush over books I love on this site – but I rarely claim that a series, or a book takes the genre of SFF in another direction and to another level. The Broken Earth trilogy does just that. Like many other reviewers, I find I am scrambling to think of words that adequately sum up my emotions and feelings when I read this book. Inevitably, whatever I say will fall short. However, I do have just a couple of words of advice. Whatever you do, do NOT start this book unless you have read the other two in the series. They are essentially a single book covering a single narrative arc, sliced up into separate volumes and if you don’t start at the beginning, you won’t have any hope of being able to sensibly work out what is going on. And above all, this story deserves to be told in its entirety.

When you start The Fifth Season all set to fling the book across the room because of the odd viewpoint, do hang on in there for at least 30 pages. I am not going to claim for one minute that this series will appeal to everyone, but reading through a number of reviews I am aware that most readers find the POV offputting initially, before finding themselves sufficiently engrossed so that it doesn’t matter. The main question remains regarding The Stone Sky – does it bring this immense story to a satisfactory conclusion? And this was what had prevented me from picking it up, because I couldn’t see any way that Jemisin could pull that one off. However, she does. Although it is only February, I am not expecting another book this year to top The Stone Sky. Never mind 10 stars, I would give it 100 if I could.
10/10

Sunday Post – 18th March, 2018

Standard

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

And here we are – with snow on the ground and an icy wind blowing. On Friday the temperature was in the mid-50s with bright sunshine and there were butterflies and bumblebees in the garden. I’m aware some of you are used to such temperature swings. We aren’t.

This week’s roundup is going to be short as I am in the throes of the final act of my rewrite of Miranda’s Tempest – so this morning that’s where I’m going. Back to their enchanted island and Miranda’s fury as she discovers the identity of the Black Magician who ensorcelled her into loving Ferdinand and deserting the true love of her life…

This week I have read:

Removed – Book 1 of the Nogiku series by S.J. Pajonas
It’s easy for Sanaa to ignore the first signs of trouble. After all, she’s living her dream with a job and life she loves. But when she’s reassigned as a data analyst for a mysterious, well-connected man, she starts to piece together the alarming reality. Corrupt clans vie for control of the city, desperate for a ticket off the dying planet.

I really enjoyed this slow-burn sci fi thriller and am delighted that I’ve got the next book in the series as I will definitely be reading it soon.

 

A Pair of Docks – Book 1 of The Derivatives of Displacement series by Jennifer Ellis
Fourteen-year-old Abbey Sinclair likes to spend her afternoons in the physics lab learning about momentum and gravitational pull. But her practical scientific mind is put to the test when her older brother, Simon, discovers a mysterious path of stones that allows them, along with Abbey’s twin, Caleb, to travel back and forth between their world and what appears to be…the future.

Unfortunately, they’re not the only ones who know about the stones, and they soon realize their lives are in danger from a man known only as Mantis. Abbey, Caleb, and Simon must follow a twisting trail of clues that will lead them from their autistic neighbor, Mark, to a strange professor who claims to know the rules of the stones, and to multiple futures—some of whose inhabitants don’t want to stay put.

Apparently, this is a children’s book – but don’t be put off by that. The protagonist might be a youngster, but this reads far more like YA without any romance. The characters are nuanced, the plotting sophisticated and the world delightfully complex. I’ve just discovered a cracking new series – yippee!

 

Willnot by James Sallis
In the woods outside the town of Willnot, the remains of several people have suddenly been discovered, unnerving the community and unsettling Hale, the town’s all-purpose general practitioner, surgeon, and town conscience. At the same time, Bobby Lowndes–his military records disappeared, being followed by the FBI–mysteriously reappears in his hometown, at Hale’s door.

I’ve just finished reading this one – a team read with my blogging friend, Emma at One Reader’s Thoughts. We were supposed to be discussing it as we went, but I’ve burned through it, so I’m not saying anymore until I’ve spoken to her about it…

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 11th March 2018

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Reclaiming Shilo Snow – Book 2 of The Evaporation of Sofi Snow series by Mary Weber

Teaser Tuesday featuring A Pair of Docks – Book 1 of The Derivatives of Displacement series by Jennifer Ellis

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Escaping Firgo by Jason Whittle

Review of Blunt Force Magic – Book 1 of the Monsters and Men series by Lawrence Davis

Friday Face-off – Like a puppet on a string… featuring The Puppet Masters by Robert Heinlein

Review of Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew P. Walker

 

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

The Why #amwriting https://didioviatt.wordpress.com/2018/03/15/the-why-amwriting/ Right now I need a reminder as to WHY I’m putting myself through this bleeping misery… And this sums it up quite neatly.

Are We Ready for Tiangong-1? http://earthianhivemind.net/2018/03/17/ready-tiangong-1/ Some of us might need to consider putting on hard hats before leaving the house…

So Bad It’s Good: The Best Bad Poets in English Literature https://interestingliterature.com/2018/03/16/so-bad-its-good-the-best-bad-poets-in-english-literature/ Probably not the book you’d want to find yourself featuring in…

Thursday Doors https://jeanreinhardt.wordpress.com/2018/03/15/thursday-doors-96/ It’s been a while since I’ve featured this site, but I regularly visit and fell in love with this GORGEOUS door…

Learning to Build my Writing “Cathedral” Again https://saraletourneauwriter.com/2018/03/14/building-writing-cathedral/ Yep. More about the writing – and this article explains a very personal journey for one talented writer I know…

Have a great week and thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site.

My Outstanding Books of 2017

Standard

Last year was yet another bumper year for reading, particularly in the science fiction and fantasy genres. As usual, I’ll list the ones that stood out for me – and we’re not talking a top ten. I completed 174 books last year, but won’t go into too much detail in this article about my overall 2017 reading experience, as today it’s all about those that gave me the tingle factor. Most will have received a perfect ten on my scoring system, however there will be a couple that didn’t. The reason they are here is because that after I’d finished reading and writing about them, they didn’t go away, but continued to linger in my thoughts. So here they are, in no particular order:-

 

Emperor of the Fireflies – Book 2 of the Tide Dragons series by Sarah Ash

This godpunk duology set within the Japanese pantheon centres around a beautiful, dark-edged myth. Ash’s lyrical prose and deft handling of this tale has stayed with me throughout the year, despite having read it last January. See my review here.

 

Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey

I absolutely fell in love with this haunting retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. While I enjoyed and admired Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed – another strong contender – this one stole my heart. The ending gave me goosebumps, while making me weep. That doesn’t happen very often. See my review here.

 

After Atlas – Book 2 of the Planetfall series by Emma Newman

While I thoroughly enjoyed the first book, Planetfall, this one blew me away. The characterisation, the horrible situation the protagonist finds himself in – it all got under my skin to the extent that I woke my husband up as I yelled in shock at a particular point in the book. I can’t wait to see where Newman goes next with this amazing series. See my review here.

 

Wolf Moon – Book 2 of the Luna duology by Ian McDonald

This depiction of an existence on the Moon where rampant capitalism holds sway hasn’t left me alone since I read this one. McDonald has called it ‘A game of domes’ and he certainly has nailed the deadly powerplays the main families indulge in with his reference to George R.R. Martin’s epic. I keep thinking about that ending… See my review here.

 

Winter Tide – Book 1 of the Innesmouth Legacy by Ruthanna Emrys

This book was a delightful surprise – I had no idea the writing would pull me into this version of Lovecraft’s monstrous world, with a strong, sympathetic protagonist who is one of the few survivors of the attack on Innesmouth years ago. I loved it and am very much looking forward to reading more in this fantastic series. See my review here.

 

The Forever Court – Book 2 of The Knights of the Borrowed Dark trilogy by Dave Rudden

I enjoyed the first book in this series, Knights of the Borrowed Dark, finding Rudden’s punchy prose style both enjoyable and memorable. But this sequel builds on the first with an engrossing adventure and some amazing characters. It’s far too good to leave just for the children. See my review here.

 

Scavenger Alliance – Book 1 of the Exodus series by Janet Edwards

I have thoroughly enjoyed all Edwards’ books – but this managed to nock up the stakes to a point I could not put it down until I’d finished reading it. I have rules about never reading or watching TV until after 5.30 pm – otherwise I’d never get anything done. I broke that rule for this book. See my review here.

 

Cold Welcome – Book 1 of Vatta’s Peace by Elizabeth Moon

This is a new spinoff series by a much-loved author which I was delighted to read – even better, it was a storming adventure that proved to be an engrossing page-turner. I remembered all over again why I love reading this author. See my review here.

 

Dichronauts by Greg Egan

No one writes different aliens as well as Greg Egan – and I loved this adventure. I’m very much hoping it turns into a series as I would love to spend more time following the fortunes of these amazing creatures. See my review here.

 

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

This is a series I read longer ago than I care to recall – and when I saw it had appeared in Kindle, I snapped it up and reread it, something I hardly ever do. My instincts were spot on – I have thoroughly enjoyed revisiting this engrossing world and following Rowena’s adventures in this smart, cleverly written fantasy/science fiction mashup. This is the particular story that has stayed with me, though the other books in the series are just as good. See my review here.

 

Heir to the North – Book 1 of Malessar’s Curse by Steven Poore

This epic fantasy got under my skin and into my heart in a way that doesn’t often happen with this genre. I loved the clever, clever twist at the end and one of the treats in 2018 is to tuck into the sequel, The High King’s Vengeance. See my review here.

 

Sea of Rust by Robert C. Cargill

This was another amazing book that came out of the blue – I’d not read anything by this author before and was delighted by this post-apocalyptic world peopled by robots who are starting to wear out and fail. With no factories or warehouses full of spare parts anymore, the only option is to harvest those parts from other robots. See my review here.

 

The Last Dog on Earth by Adrian J. Walker

I’ve read a number of apocalyptic tales during the year, however in this version Walker triumphantly succeeds in giving us a dog’s version of a complete collapse in law and order. And the chilling results of what happens when that order is reimposed by the wrong people. See my review here.

 

Empire of Dust – Book 1 of the Psi-Tech novels by Jacey Beford

This epic science fiction adventure stood out because of the flawed protagonist and the gritty depiction of establishing a colony. I really enjoyed the world and the fact that love clearly doesn’t cure all. I’m looking forward to reading more from this talented author. See my review here.

 

The Wizards of Once – Book 1 of The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell

After her marvellous series How To Train Your Dragon, I was interested to see how she would follow it up. The writing is more lyrical, the underlying poignancy is more pronounced. My elderly Kindle didn’t like the illustrations throughout this book and part of my Christmas money is going on buying a print version of this book. Not for the grandchildren – for me. See my review here.

 

Whirligig: Keeping the Promise – Book 1 of Shire’s Union by Richard Buxton

I have to declare an interest – Richard is a former student and I had read some extracts from a very early draft. However that did not prepare me for the excellence of the writing, where this historical adventure finds two young English people from the same small village ending up in America during the Civil War. They are both caught in quite different ways and this story just kept on delivering in terms of plot twists and tension. See my review here.

 

Gnomon by Nick Harkaway

This doorstopper is extraordinary. Don’t ask me what the storyline is – other than recalling there are five main protagonists with very different and vivid voices, it’s too complicated to recall. What I do remember is that very early on I took the decision to slow right down and savour this book as reads like this don’t come along all that often. It took me 10 days to get through this one and I recall feeling sad when it came to the end. See my review here.

To pare the list down to this required setting aside other books that still hurt to leave out – the likes of Mother of Eden by Chris Beckett, Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory, The Real-Town Murders by Adam Roberts, The Invisible Library books by Genevieve Cogman and The Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews all missed making this list by a whisker. If you force to me to choose just one of these books, I’ll probably never forgive you, but it would have to be After Atlas.

What were your outstanding reads of the year?

Shoot for the Moon 2017 Challenge – How Did I Do?

Standard

Mhairi Simpson, and I, once again, set ourselves a series of ambitious writing-related goals when 2017 was only a couple of days old. How well did I do in meeting these targets?

• Rewrite Miranda’s Tempest after receiving excellent advice on how to improve the storyline.
I finally managed to get this rewritten, including a change in the point of view from first person to third person, and sent back during the summer. In the beginning of August, I got another long, detailed email listing the main problem areas where I could further improve it. So far I haven’t managed to get to it – but it is high on my list for early 2018.

• Edit Dying for Space and Breathing Space
I duly tightened up Dying for Space to my satisfaction, but although I had another go at Breathing Space, I’m still not completely happy with the narrative arc and plan to have a drastic pruning session to see if I can smooth out the pacing in the first third of the book, before publishing it in summer 2018.

• Write the first draft of Bloodless, my space opera crime novel, featuring Elizabeth Wright, my protagonist who features in The Sunblinded Trilogy.
Nope. Didn’t get close to this one as I was tied up with the rewrites of Miranda’s Tempest and later in the year, I also made a drastic change to Running Out of Space and Dying for Space ridiculously close to the publication date which further messed up my writing schedule. So this is another major task that needs to be completed in 2018 if I am to sustain my self-publishing schedule.

• Complete Picky Eaters
And this is another project that didn’t see the light of day and one I intend to get completed during 2018. Apart from anything else, the grandchildren are keen for this one to be published and given my other books aren’t age appropriate, I’d really like to get it out there for them.

• Continue submitting my work
My more professional approach to the submission process paid dividends as in January 2017 I was offered a contract for Netted by Grimbold Publishing. I am thrilled – they are a small outfit, but so passionate about the books they publish. They are like a family, with a strong and continuing interest in the authors they work with and I have huge respect for the quality of the work they release. Netted is due to be published in 2019.

In addition, I was asked to submit a short story to be included in a Grimbold Publishing anthology Holding On By Our Fingertips. I was delighted when ‘A Dire Emergency’ was accepted and will be published alongside a number of excellent writers in the first half of 2018.

• Self publish a novel
And in October, I finally released Running Out of Space. It has garnered a few reviews, all positive and in December I published the sequel, Dying for Space. I am thrilled every time someone drops me a line to tell me how much they enjoyed reading the books. I’m guessing that is an emotion that never gets old.

 

• Write at least 100 reviews for my blog
This year I read 175 books and wrote 162 reviews, though not all of them have been published yet. I have now got my act together regarding Netgalley arcs and throughout most of 2017 I have managed to achieve an 80% feedback ratio. In another post, I will further discuss the books I read in 2017. I’m really pleased I have managed to sustain my reading and blogging as I thoroughly enjoy being involved in the lovely #bookbloggers community, discussing books I’ve read and swapping recommendations.

• Propose and plan Creative Writing courses for the academic year 2016/17
I am delighted that since the merger with Brighton Metropolitan College last year, the Adult Learning Dept at Northbrook has had a new lease of life. My Creative Writing classes this last year have all been successful and well attended. I’m really pleased, because this is the loveliest teaching job on the planet – teaching a subject I love to the nicest bunch of folks you could wish to meet.

• Continue teaching TW
What an amazing year! We were quite daunted at the start of the year as trying to find a suitable syllabus that would be a good fit for Tim’s specific abilities was a major challenge. And once we found the subjects, we then had a battle getting hold of past papers and a suitably extensive teaching programme as despite the fact Tim is fully funded by County, we weren’t formally recognised as an official learning centre. However, it all fell into place in time for Tim to take and pass a couple of music and singing exams, which he passed with flying colours. He also passed his first formal English exam with a very high percentage. And in March we took the decision to film the script he had been working on for the previous three months – and it turned into a whirlwind…

By the end of November, we had all thirteen songs professionally recorded in a studio and the filming completed – with a cast of twenty-three, shot in a variety of locations, including Bognor pier, the museum, a shop and a local college. Tim repeatedly was pushed beyond his comfort zone as he had to respond to a number of deadlines and react to unexpected problems. He is now in the throes of editing it with the help of the videographer and we are hoping it will be ready to be shown at a local cinema sometime in the summer. I still can’t quite believe we managed it…

• Continue to improve my fitness
It was a year of two halves. I was doing so well with this up until the summer, when I was slimmer and stronger than I’ve been for years. But it was a gruelling summer and I was zapped by flu in October – probably because I was very, very tired. It wiped me out for nearly a month. The result was that I only attend my a Fitstep and Pilates class for three sessions last term. You won’t be surprised to hear that the weight has started piling back on and I am finding a number of my favourite clothes are uncomfortably snug. So I need to get back to exercising and hopefully going on walks with my husband.

Overall, it has been probably my most successful year so far, when long hours of sustained work started to pay off. The irony was that Himself was in real trouble with his job and from March through to December, we weren’t sure if he would be able to keep it. Fortunately, the review board found in his favour – but throughout that time, we didn’t know if he would prevail. So in the middle of all these successes, we were busy trying to keep our anxiety on a leash. I’m fervently hoping that 2018 is a kinder year personally and that I fulfil most of my targets I’ve set for my Shoot for the Moon Challenge 2018, which I will be discussing at the beginning of February.

In the meantime, what about you? Did you set yourself any 2017 challenges and how do you feel they went?

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Last Dog on Earth by Adrian J. Walker

Standard

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Walker’s thought-provoking, apocalyptic adventure The End of the World Running Club and so when I saw this one featured on Netgalley, it was a no-brainer that I would request it.

Every dog has its day…
And for Lineker, a happy-go-lucky mongrel from Peckham, the day the world ends is his: finally a chance to prove to his owner just how loyal he can be. Reg, an agoraphobic writer with an obsession for nineties football, plans to wait out the impending doom in his second floor flat, hiding himself away from the riots outside. But when an abandoned orphan shows up in the stairwell of their building, Reg and Lineker must brave the outside in order to save not only the child, but themselves…

Firstly, a warning – if you don’t like reading extreme swearing, including the c-word, then this one may not be for you. That said, while this is generally a word that immediately has me shutting up the book and flinging it across the room, it occurs when we are in Lineker’s pov, when it seems to be entirely appropriate.

I think that the depiction of this dog is a tour de force particularly in the early stages when he is full of beans and boisterous. Having been a dog owner, I felt that Walker completely got inside the skin of an animal who mostly decodes the world through his nose. I also love the bursts of energy and impulsiveness Walker manages to evoke. By contrast, later on in the novel, when everything gets a whole lot darker, there is an effective shift in the viewpoint when Lineker stops being such a volatile bundle of joy.

As for Reginald – Walker has already demonstrated that he is effective at writing a flawed ordinary bloke, struggling to cope in a modern world. While Reginald is a very different character, there is an underlying likeability that stands him in good stead. Despite a particularly shocking episode that had me shaking my head in disbelief, I did stick with him and care about what happens to him, which is crucial to the overall success of this book.

Both Reginald and Lineker go on a journey, both literal and figurative as the awfulness around them finally intrudes. Both man and dog are tested and I was very relieved that this book didn’t puddle down into any kind of sentimentality.

The ending is entirely satisfactory and makes sense, though it did feel a tad rushed. However, I am not knocking off any points. Lineker is an amazing character who will stay with me for a long time to come and this book is recommended for anyone who enjoys something different, despite – and even because of – the hardcore language.

While I obtained the arc of The Last Dog on Earth from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
10/10