Tag Archives: S.J. Higbee

Friday Faceoff – A crown it is a hollow thing… Brainfluffbookblog

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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 subject this week featuring on any of our covers is a CROWN, so I’ve selected Three Dark Crowns – Book 1 of the Three Dark Crowns series by Kendare Blake.

 

This edition was produced by HarperTeen in September 2016. I really like the idea of this one – three crowns all different, interspersed with the title. But I’m less impressed with the execution. Who decided that the backdrop had to be so flipping dark? Or that the gloom should all but engulf the images, so that in thumbnail, all you can see is the black cover and even the title is swallowed up. What a shame – because I feel that if only the backdrop had been just a bit brighter, this default cover would have really popped.

 

Published in September 2016 by Macmillan Children’s Books, this one is slightly better, although in thumbnail it is still difficult to make out anything other than the gold and red. However, I do prefer this as the contrast between the red roses and gold gives it visual impact and I also very much like the styling of the red font against the black background.

 

Der Schwarze ThronDie Schwestern von Kendare Blake

This German edition, published by Penhaligon in May 2017 has decided to make a feature out of the crown, rather than the dark, which is far more eye-catching in thumbnail. I love the smoky effect surrounding the crown, along with the wheeling birds, giving a real sense of menace. And I also like the embossed effect gold finish on the title font that gives it a nifty 3-D effect. My niggle is with that nasty red blob in the middle of the artwork – why couldn’t it have gone in a corner, or at bottom where it wouldn’t have interfered so jarringly with the design?

 

Produced by Pan Macmillan in September 2016, this one is my favourite. While I still think the black is rather too pervasive, that bright green snake curled around the crown really leaps out and is nicely complemented by the matching title font. Punchy and simple, I think that this is the most successful of all the covers, perhaps with the exception of the bottom one, which is also my favourite… Yep – this time around, I simply can’t choose between these two.

 

This Chinese edition, published by 臉譜 in July 2016, features the three queens fighting for the crown. I love the strong anime influence in the artwork, revealing their individual strengths. It’s busier than the stripped-back approach of the other examples, but I think it’s certainly more successful than some of the gloomiest examples and I can’t make up my mind between this one and the previous cover featuring the snake. Which is your favourite?

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Review of KINDLE Ebook Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik #Brainfluffbookreview #SpinningSilverbookreview

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I’ve loved Novik’s writing for many years, being a fan of her fabulous Temeraire series – see my review of Victory of Eagles and I was also blown away by Uprooted – see my review here. So I was thrilled when Tammy of Books, Bones and Buffy mentioned Novik had released Spinning Silver.

Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders… but her father isn’t a very good one. Free to lend and reluctant to collect, he has loaned out most of his wife’s dowry and left the family on the edge of poverty–until Miryem steps in. Hardening her heart against her fellow villagers’ pleas, she sets out to collect what is owed–and finds herself more than up to the task. When her grandfather loans her a pouch of silver pennies, she brings it back full of gold.

I’ve heard this one described as a retelling of the old fairytale ‘Rumplestiltskin’, but it isn’t that straightforward. Novik has taken elements of that story – just a few – and woven them into another, more detailed backdrop. The setting is a version of 19th century Russia, complete with isolated villages surrounded by hundreds of miles of thick woodland, nobility who have the power of life and death over their subjects and a simmering resentment against the Jewish community. They are the ones who lend money to those who need it, the ones who often also make music, jewellery and can read and write within their close-knit communities, so make a convenient target when those in power don’t want to pay back their debts. Add in the danger of the ferocious cold of a Russian winter, when the dreaded Staryk are more easily able to cross into the human world. These icy fae have mercilessly predated upon the humans who wander too far into their forests, killing and stealing from them – and when their actions further impact upon the protagonists in the story, these shadowy, terrifying beings end up at the heart of this story.

It’s a complicated tale with three main protagonists, Miryem, the moneylender’s daughter, Wanda, who becomes her servant and is desperate to escape her drunken abusive father and Irena, the Duke’s eldest daughter by his first wife, whose bookish nature and plain looks have been a constant disappointment – until the Tsar comes to visit…

The story bounces between these three young women as their fates increasingly become intertwined. There is a fair amount of explanation – with pages when Novik is telling the story rather than having her characters speak, which I normally dislike. But I’m going to give her a pass on this one – firstly because it didn’t jar with me. This is, after all, a fairy story, which is always told from the outside in. Secondly, because though there is a fair amount of exposition, it was necessary in this complex plot and it didn’t stop Novik from immersing us in the thoughts and fears of her main protagonists. Thirdly, it was a delightfully long book with an unusually dense story, which I loved.

I’m aware this is a Marmite book – those aspects I’ve listed above as pluses have also exasperated some readers, preventing them from bonding with this book. Normally, I love a story to unfold from the inside out, but I simply think this time around it wouldn’t have worked so effectively. All I would say is – give it a go and discover for yourself if this one is for you. If you enjoy it, you’ll thank me. This is one that has had me continuing to ponder it since I’ve read it – always a sign that a book has properly got under my skin and it’s recommended for fantasy fans who like detailed worlds with plenty of unexpected twists thrown in.
9/10

 

Monday Post – 10th December, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog #NotaSundayPost

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

This week has been a busy one, winding up my Creative Writing class and teaching Tim until after Christmas. I am hoping that during the break I can regain my health and stamina. My wonderful writing buddy, Mhairi and I also completed our tax returns – she comes over and we tackle them together, which makes the whole process a lot more fun and a lot less scary. It was one of those chores we’d planned to do much earlier this autumn, but I’d had to postpone as I wasn’t feeling well enough.

Other than that, I’ve started buying Christmas and birthday pressies as far too many family members saw fit to get themselves born in December, including my mother, daughter and number one grandchild. This weekend I had the grandchildren stay over for the first time in over two months – it will be the last time I’ll see them before Christmas – and we had a great time. We all went shopping yesterday morning, started decorating the house in the afternoon and went out for a Chinese meal at our favourite restaurant in the evening. So Sunday morning we spent a lazy morning recovering, before Oscar tackled the Christmas tree, while Frankie experimented with different looks. It seemed far too soon that I had to load them back into the car, ready to take them home yesterday afternoon and then sank onto the sofa, too tired to move for the rest of the evening. Hence being a day late…

Last week I read:

Ichor Well – Book 3 of the Free-Wrench series by Joseph Lallo
Ever since Nita Graus left her homeland and joined the crew of the Wind Breaker, the reputation of the airship and its crew has been growing. The destruction of the mighty dreadnought, the escape from the legendary Skykeep, and the inexplicable ability to remain hidden from the ever-watchful eye of the Fug Folk have combined to make her and her fellow crew the stuff of legend. Alas, legendary heroes cannot exist for long without attracting a worthy villain. Luscious P. Alabaster strives to be just that foe.
This steampunk adventure is great fun – though it’s a real shame that I mistakenly tucked into the third book in the series. However, I’ll be backtracking to the first two books, because I really enjoyed this one.

 

Six of Crows – Book 1 of the Six of Crows series by Leigh Bardugo
Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price–and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…
I’d heard so much about the criminal underworld fantasy adventure, so decided to give it a whirl as a break from all the science fiction I’ve recently been reading. And I’m so glad I did as I thoroughly enjoyed it.

 

 

An Easy Death – Book 1 of the Gunnie Rose series by Charlaine Harris
Set in a fractured United States, in the southwestern country now known as Texoma. A world where magic is acknowledged but mistrusted, especially by a young gunslinger named Lizbeth Rose. Battered by a run across the border to Mexico Lizbeth Rose takes a job offer from a pair of Russian wizards to be their local guide and gunnie.
I was wittering at Himself about this one and next thing I knew – he’d bought it for me… And Himself, of course – I love it that we often love the same books. We certainly both thoroughly enjoyed this one. Lizbeth’s first person narration during the variety of adventures that engulf her during a particular job had me thoroughly rooting for her. She is feisty, tough and smart and yet doesn’t come off as a Mary Sue. I found it hard to put this one down until I’d finished it.

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 2nd December 2018

Review of Eye Can Write by Jonathan Bryan

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Murder in the Dark – Book 6 of the Ishmael Jones series by Simon R. Green

Friday Face-Off featuring The Lost Hero – Book 1 of The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan

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

Fragment(s): Monday Maps and Diagrams (Science Fiction) 12/3/18 – Mark S. Geston’s Lords of the Starship (1967) https://sciencefictionruminations.com/2018/12/03/monday-maps-and-diagrams-science-fiction-12-3-18-mark-s-gestons-lords-of-the-starship-1967/
This is a quirky post about the sci fi equivalent of those fantasy maps that are so common – and it’s worth clicking on the link that gives you access to loads of others…

Top Ten Tuesday – Welcome to the Comfort Zone https://lynns-books.com/2018/12/04/welcome-to-the-comfort-zone/ Lynn’s Book Blog is one of my regular go-to visits as I love her often quirky approach and consistently high quality reviews. This list was a real treat…

Wildlife destinations in Africa that you need to check out http://chechewinnie.com/wildlife-destinations-in-africa-that-you-need-to-check-out/ This is another site I regularly check in on – the facts and fabulous pics are a real pick-me-up on a dank December day.

Write a Winter Haiku & Get the Kids Writing Too – “Snowfalls” (Haiku from MY MAINE by Bette A. Stevens https://4writersandreaders.com/2018/12/04/s-writing-too-snowfalls-haiku-from-my-maine-by-bette-a-stevenswrite-a-winter-haiku-get-the-kid/ A lovely example of a popular verse form.

The Captain’s Log – the egg (Andy Weir) https://thecaptainsquartersblog.wordpress.com/2018/12/04/the-captains-log-the-egg-andy-weir/ The Cap is a great reviewer with decided views – and in this article he provides a link to a gem of a short story by Andy Weir of The Martian fame. I loved it…

In the meantime, many thanks for taking the time to comment, like and visit my blog and have a great week.

Friday Faceoff – A hero is somebody who voluntarily walks into the unknown… Brainfluffbookblog

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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 subject this week featuring on any of our covers is a HERO, so I’ve selected The Lost Hero – Book 1 of The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riodan.

 

This edition was produced by Disney-Hyperion Books in October 2012. I really like this cover featuring a wonderful steam-driven dragon, which rightly has pride of place in the middle of the cover. The green light suffusing the backdrop ensures the metallic colouring is nicely thrown into relief. The title and author fonts are clear and inoffensive, if a tad boring, but this cover is a strong contender – even if said hero doesn’t feature all that much.

 

Published in October 2011 by Puffin, this is a really dramatic offering. The steampunk dragon is still featuring – but the lower half of the cover is given over to the young hero plunging towards the ground. It is a startling, eye-catching image. Unusually, the series details are given more emphasis than the title or even the best-selling author. While this is unquestionably a dramatic cover, it doesn’t look so effective in thumbnail.

 

This Italian edition, published by Mondadori in September 2017 has featured the lost hero of the title. The silhouette of the slumped figure depicts utter despair. With the birds pouring out of him as he dissolves, it is an arresting image that snags attention. I would love it even more, but for the fact that it fades into black both top and bottom. This means the artwork only extends over half of the cover, which is a shame, given how brilliant it is.

 

Produced by Boekeri in September 2012, this Dutch edition is more successful. I love the dramatic colouring and the protagonists staring at the devastated cityscape while that amazing mechanical dragon is also nicely featured. Those flame colours in the backdrop really jump out. I also love that border edging the whole cover which gives it an extra dimension. This is my favourite, though it’s a close-run thing between this one and the cover below.

 

This Russian edition, published by Эксмо in October 2010 has us back in the air with that wonderful mechanical dragon again. This is another cover that tells a dramatic story, with the city in flames and that amazing building featuring behind the lovely red and white font. I really like the fact that we can see the characters so clearly on board the dragon. Which one is your favourite?

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Murder in the Dark – Book 6 of the Ishmael Jones series by Simon R. Green #Brainfluffbookreview #MurderintheDarkbookreview

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This book cover looks creepy and rather horrific, but while there are murders and poor old Ishmael Jones is taking it all very seriously, this book has its tongue firmly in its cheek…

“The past is England’s dreaming, and not all of it sleeps soundly…”
Ishmael Jones and his partner Penny have been despatched to assist a group of scientists who are investigating a mysterious black hole which has appeared on a Somerset hillside. Could it really be a doorway to another dimension, an opening into another world? When one of the scientists disappears into the hole — with fatal consequences — Ishmael must prove whether it was an accident — or murder. But with no clues, no witnesses and no apparent motive, he has little to go on. Is there an alien predator at large, or is an all-too-human killer responsible? Only one thing is certain: if Ishmael does not uncover the truth in time, more deaths will follow…

I’m not sure at what point I began to see the funny side of this adventure, but when I did, there was a fair amount that set me quietly chuckling. Green’s dark humour is more apparent and gory in his Deathstalker series, but I found this version more enjoyable.

If you are looking for foot-to-the-floor action adventure, then you’ll be disappointed. Apart from the body count, which rises alongside the tension as Ishmael tries to work out exactly who or what is annihilating the wretched team of scientists stuck on the hill on a dark, dark night, there isn’t a lot that actually happens. Think of a locked room mystery in the middle of the English countryside. However, there are plenty of possible suspects – including what may or may not be emerging from that creepy hole – and lots of enjoyable character clashes and conflicts, which Green writes very well. The bonus for those who have followed the series, is that during this investigation we get to know a bit more about Jones’ shadowy past and hints that it might be catching up with him.

One of the joys of this series is his relationship with Penny, his girlfriend and dauntless sidekick – it’s rare to find a truly happy couple in these sorts of adventures and I hope it stays that way. Their snarky exchanges and domestic bickering about Penny’s driving and lack of cooking skills somehow helps to highlight just how weird it’s all got – and won’t it be nice to get back to normality…

Highly recommended if you like a bit of humour thrown in with the paranormal shenanigans – and the bonus is that this is the sort of series that you can jump in anywhere without losing too much of the context. While I obtained an arc of Murder in the Dark from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

Review of Eye Can Write by Jonathan Bryan #Brainfluffbookreview #EyeCanWritebookreview

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This is a book my mother sent me after seeing twelve-year-old Jonathan interviewed on TV and looking up his story.

Can you imagine not being able to speak or communicate? The silence, the loneliness, the pain. But, inside you disappear to magical places, and even meet your best friend there. However, most of the time you remain imprisoned within the isolation. Waiting, longing, hoping. Until someone realises your potential and discovers your key, so your unlocking can begin. Now you are free, flying like a wild bird in the open sky. A voice for the voiceless.

Jonathan Bryan has severe cerebral palsy, a condition that makes him incapable of speech or voluntary movement. He was locked inside his own mind, aware of the outside world but unable to fully communicate with it until he found a way by using his eyes to laboriously choose individual letters, and through this make his thoughts known.

I knew this was a special book, but was unprepared for the emotional impact. It is a book of two halves – the first part is written by Jonathan’s mother and charts the events leading up to the accident that caused Jonathan’s problems. The list of life-threatening difficulties he has endured is shockingly long, as is the number of medical interventions and trips to hospital he had needed. His gritted courage and determination were evident in the fact that he simply hung on in there and refused to die when the odds were stacked against him, time and time again.

But what for me was a source of heartbreak and intense frustration was his treatment at the special school where he was simply being warehoused. It brought back far too many unhappy memories of another bright boy whose education was severely compromised because expectations about his ability were set far too low. This book is a testament to Jonathan’s own intelligence and passion, as well as a tribute to a mother who refused to listen to the experts and was guided instead by her own instincts about her son. She taught him to read and over time, they found a way to allow him to express himself, even though it is laborious.

Jonathan’s own feelings about being trapped within his body without any way to express himself, while forced to watch the same TV programme designed for developing infants should be a wake-up call for everyone in Special Needs education. I very much hope the politicians he has met will take note of what he is saying and realise that while he is remarkable, there are probably many other children and adults with active, creative minds also trapped by their bodies. I’d like to think as a country we will take on board Jonathan’s plea that everyone should be taught to read and write, using all the technology available, unless it becomes apparent that it isn’t appropriate, which is not the case now.

In the meantime, go and track this book down. It is an emotional read, but also very uplifting. Jonathan’s poetry will stay with me for a long time…
10/10

Sunday Post – 2nd December, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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

I’ve been AWOL for a while, mostly because I’ve been battling with my health. It’s boring and depressing dealing with it, but I certainly don’t feel inclined to share the misery around – hence my absence. Hopefully, I’m on the road to recovery – fingers crossed.

On a much happier note, I’ve been loving Sci Fi Month and used my lolling around in bed to catch up on a number of entertaining, enjoyable science fiction adventures which took me as far away from my everyday life as I could possibly get. Yippee! Thank you to Lisa and her trusty team for running this event and Rina for dreaming the whole thing up in the first place – I’m here to tell you that during a very grotty month otherwise, it’s been a lifesaver.

Last week I read:
The Expert System’s Brother by Adrian Tchaikovsky
After an unfortunate accident, Handry is forced to wander a world he doesn’t understand, searching for meaning. He soon discovers that the life he thought he knew is far stranger than he could even possibly imagine. Can an unlikely saviour provide the answers to the questions he barely comprehends?
This novella is a cracking read – Tchaikovsky doesn’t disappoint in this dystopian colony adventure. While the story didn’t deliver lots of surprises, I have found myself thinking a lot about the issues he raises – and isn’t that the mark of a good read?

 

Terms of Enlistment – Book 1 of the Frontlines series by Marko Kloos
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.
This is a really gripping read with one of the best battle scenes I’ve ever read. I’ll definitely be getting hold of the next book in this series. No wonder I keep encountering this author in the best-selling rankings… PLUS I also read Lucky Thirteen – a short story set in the same world, also very highly recommended.

 

The High Ground – Book 1 of the Imperials series by Melinda M. Snodgrass
Emperor’s daughter Mercedes is the first woman ever admitted to the High Ground, the elite training academy of the Solar League’s Star Command, and she must graduate if she is to have any hope of taking the throne. Her classmate Tracy has more modest goals — to rise to the rank of captain, and win fame and honor. But a civil war is coming and the political machinations of those who yearn for power threaten the young cadets. In a time of intrigue and alien invasion, they will be tested as they never thought possible.
I’m always a sucker for college/school-based adventures and I found this one highly readable and engrossing. The contrast between the two main characters gives a real sense of the social structure, with one out of her depth because she is suddenly confronted with the possibility of being the next ruler. While the other has been taken out of his low-class background and is enduring the misery of being a scholarship student.

 

Murder in the Dark – Book 6 of the Ishmael Jones series by Simon R. Green
Ishmael Jones and his partner Penny have been despatched to assist a group of scientists who are investigating a mysterious black hole which has appeared on a Somerset hillside. Could it really be a doorway to another dimension, an opening into another world? When one of the scientists disappears into the hole — with fatal consequences — Ishmael must prove whether it was an accident — or murder. But with no clues, no witnesses and no apparent motive, he has little to go on. Is there an alien predator at large, or is an all-too-human killer responsible? Only one thing is certain: if Ishmael does not uncover the truth in time, more deaths will follow…
Despite the grim look of the covers, I promise you that this isn’t horror on any level. It’s a paranormal, murder mystery series with its tongue firmly in its cheek. I really enjoy the snarky humour and sheer outrageous implausibility of the murders and this one cheered me up no end while I was just beginning to recover from my boring illness.

My posts last week:

#Sci Fi Month Review of Star Nomad – Book 1 of the Fallen Empire series by Lindsey Buroker

#Sci Fi Month Review of The Scent of Metal – Book 1 of the Space Argonauts series by Sabrina Chase

#Sci Fi Month Review of Into the Dark – Book 1 of the Alexis Carew series by J.A. Sutherland

#Sci Fi Month Review of Terms of Enlistment – Book 1 of the Frontlines series by Marko Kloos

#Sci Fi Month – The Ones That Got Away

Apologies for not having any interesting items to pass on – I simply haven’t been sufficiently present to retweet and comment on other folks’ blogs. In the meantime, many thanks for taking the time to comment, like and visit my blog – have a great week.

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

#Sci Fi Month Review of INDIE Ebook Into the Dark – Book 1 of the Alexis Carew series by J.A. Sutherland #Brainfluffbookreview #IntotheDarkbookreview

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I had asked Himself for recommendations for more military space opera in honour of Sci Fi Month and he immediately suggested this one…

At fifteen, Alexis Carew has to face an age old problem – she’s a girl, and only a boy can inherit the family’s vast holdings. Her options are few. She must marry and watch a stranger run the lands, or become a penniless tenant and see the lands she so dearly loves sold off. Yet there may be another option, one that involves becoming a midshipman on a shorthanded spaceship with no other women.

This is essentially Hornblower in space – and very well done, too. Sutherland has taken the idea of solar sails and provides some vivid space battles that are reminiscent of the 17th and 18th century man o’war tactics. To be honest, some suspension of disbelief is required – I happily believed that the solar sails were useful and that they needed human crews rather than robot labour, but there were a few touches that stretched my credulity.

However, the plight Alexis faces if she stays on the planet is inescapable – she will be forced to marry someone she hates and despises. She is a tough energetic girl, caught up with the day to day running of the holding and takes to the rigour of life in the Navy like a space duckling takes to zero gravity. I like her straightforward character and the fact that Sutherland is mindful not to make her too much of a Mary Sue – she struggles badly with navigation.

What she has in spades is plenty of physical energy, the ability to think quickly on her feet and a fundamentally nice disposition without it becoming sickly, which is harder to do than Sutherland makes it look. Did I believe in her ability to handle the situations that she is confronted with? Yes – she is raised in a tough, colonial environment. As a historian, I have read accounts of what young men and women achieved when homesteading in the States, or working on a small farm in the UK and their physical fortitude and strength puts us all to shame. Nothing to say that can’t happen again…

I very much liked the story development and overall the worldbuilding – though I do find it difficult to believe that flogging would still be a thing in a futuristic setting, given that we know the faultlines that ran through the Royal Navy of the time and why they needed to use such extreme brutality. It was a reflection of the harsh social situation for most people at the time – I’m not sure I’m so convinced that prevails to the same extent in this particular future world.

It doesn’t stop me being keen to pick up the second book in this entertaining series as I want to know what happens next to Alexis, given there is a real twist right at the end of the book.
8/10

#Sci Fi Month – Review of INDIE Ebook The Scent of Metal – Book 1 of the Argonauts of Space series by Sabrina Chase #Brainfluffbookreview #TheScentofMetalbookreview

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Himself reads a lot more than I do – and when I asked him for more science fiction adventures to read in order to celebrate Sci Fi Month, he recommended this book, and given that it’s by the author who has written the enjoyable Sequoyah trilogy – see my review of The Long Way Home here, it was a no-brainer that I’d tuck into this offering.

The expedition ship Kepler races to Pluto, intent on uncovering the secrets of the alien structure recently discovered under the ice. Computer scientist Lea Santorin can’t wait to figure out the alien technology. Instead, she wakes it up … and it continues its long-interrupted journey across the galaxy, taking Lea and Kepler with it.

I really liked Lea, which is important as she is the character that we are connected to throughout this adventure. Chase does a good job of thoroughly establishing Lea’s personality in the opening stages of this book, which I increasingly appreciated as stuff became seriously weird. Lea somehow becomes linked to the alien entity which is Pluto, and there is a nicely creepy section where we are unsure exactly what is going to happen next. I do enjoy space opera adventure when it goes down this path, however, the catch with upping the stakes so that we are increasingly invested in discovering what is going on is that the reveal has to be worth the journey. I’ve read far too many of these types of books where it wasn’t. Fortunately Chase is too experienced and skilful to fall into that trap, so that as the adventure progresses and we get to know more about what is going on, she keeps providing sufficient twists and turns. I love her explanation for why Neanderthals disappeared so abruptly from our planet…

There is also another plotline involving the military detail assigned to look after Lea and the other scientists investigating Kepler, which also gives this adventure more of a military sci-fi feel. The two plotlines merge nicely towards the end and I definitely want to know what happens next, given the rather chilling threat that is revealed at the end of the book.

Chase provides plenty of thrills, spills and nicely nuanced characterisation that held me until the end and definitely makes me want to read on – in short, all the ingredients that make me such a fan of modern space opera. Highly recommended for fans of the genre.
8/10