Tag Archives: S.J. Higbee

Review of KINDLE Ebook Killbox – Book 4 of the Sirantha Jax series by Ann Aguirre

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I read and reviewed the first books in this excellent series a while ago – see my review of Grimspace.

Sirantha Jax is a “Jumper,” a woman who possesses the unique genetic makeup needed to navigate faster than light ships through grimspace. With no tolerance for political diplomacy, she quits her ambassador post so she can get back to saving the universe the way she does best—by mouthing off and kicking butt.

I’ve omitted the rest of the blurb as it is rather chatty. It has been far too long since I read the third book in this series, Doubleblind, and my recollections of that story are somewhat hazy, so I was interested to see if I’d flounder at all. I didn’t. Therefore, I would suggest that if you want to crash midway into this series (though I’m not quite sure why you would as the first three books are great reads) this would be a good spot to do so.

Sirantha Jax is an excellent protagonist. Uniquely gifted due to an unusual set of circumstances, with a very colourful past, she is strong-minded and confident to the point of arrogance – which makes a nice change from the plethora of young, uncertain protagonists we often get. That said, she also has her vulnerabilities and the people she deeply cares about – and thanks to the dire situation humanity is now facing, there is good chance none of them will make it. Aguirre depicts the stresses causes by continual combat very well, while the action scenes are well handled with plenty of tension. The stakes steadily rise throughout the book and I found this one difficult to put down as the story drew me in.

There is a strong supporting cast of likeable characters, including Sirantha’s partner and pilot, March, who has telepathic powers and a young Jumper called Angus who she is training. I held my breath throughout the combat scenes, hoping none of my favourites would die, as Aguirre is quite capable of killing off established characters, which is a measure of how much I empathised with the world and its inhabitants.

As for the ending, while it wraps up the current storylines it does leave the situation on a cliff-hanger ending and I am very glad the next book, Aftermath, is already available – and I certainly won’t be leaving it so long before tucking into it.
9/10

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Friday Faceoff – Halfway up the stairs isn’t up and isn’t down…

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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 week the theme is a cover featuring stairs, so I’ve selected Murder Must Advertise – Book 10 of the Lord Peter Wimsey series by Dorothy L. Sayers.

 

This cover, produced by HarperTorch in May 1995, is boringly generic. They have taken one of the original images and plonked it into the middle of a white cover. The best part of this cover is the period feel of the font, which is well done.

 

This edition was produced by Four Square Books in 1962 and is a far better effort. There is a real sense of drama conveyed by the crumpled body at the bottom of the twisting staircase with all the advertisements behind him on the wall. My big quibble with this cover is that ugly black block for the title font – if it wasn’t for that, this one would be my favourite.

 

Published in 1967 by Avon Books, this edition is my favourite. I love the marble effect of the cover and the lovely art deco effect produced on both the image and the fonts for the author and title, which look as if they have actually been designed to complement each other.

 

This edition, published by HarperPerennial in 1993 is another good effort. The staircase looks far more seedy and shadow of the hapless victim on the wall while falling to his death gives a rather creepy feel to the cover.

 

This Dutch edition, produced by Uitgeverij Het Spectrum is another blast from the past as it was produced in 1961. I like the punchy effect of the cream and black against the red, which I think would have been a much stronger colour before it faded with age. The figure falling headfirst down the stairs gives lots of drama to the cover, making it appealing and eye-catching. Which is your favourite?

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Netgalley arc Fire and Bone – Book 1 of the Otherborn series by Rachel A. Marks

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I liked the sound of the premise…

“Gossip Girl meets Percy Jackson in the glitz and grit of L.A….”
In Hollywood’s underworld of demigods, druids, and ancient bonds, one girl has a dangerous future.

Sage is eighteen, down on her luck, and struggling to survive on the streets of Los Angeles. Everything changes the night she’s invited to a party—one that turns out to be a trap. Thrust into a magical world hidden within the City of Angels, Sage discovers that she’s the daughter of a Celtic goddess, with powers that are only in their infancy. Now that she is of age, she’s asked to pledge her service to one of the five deities, all keen on winning her favor by any means possible. She has to admit that she’s tempted—especially when this new life comes with spells, Hollywood glam, and a bodyguard with secrets of his own. Not to mention a prince whose proposal could boost her rank in the Otherworld.

I haven’t seen Gossip Girl but have read snippets of the Percy Jackson series and have thoroughly enjoyed the world, so this one intrigued me. However, it wasn’t quite what I had envisaged. For starters, the romance features more than I had expected from reading the blurb – and as the story wore on, I realised there was the dreaded love triangle. I am not a fan of this dynamic, but I will say that Marks manages to make it seem a lot less sleazy than is often the case, as the extra character’s involvement is far more to do with what happened in the distant past.

It did take me a while to fully bond with Sage as she is continually plagued with visions and dreams which have the effect of swamping her rather chippy character, after she works through the clueless phase when she is struggling to work out exactly what is happening to her. There is a dark, tragic underbelly to this story that the blurb hasn’t highlighted and it isn’t our hapless protagonist navigating the social shark-tank of demi-god high society that I had envisaged – but the desperate story of a maddened Celtic queen who slays her king that eventually snagged me.

Given I was expecting something quite different – was what I got sufficiently engrossing to hook me anyway? Oh yes. There are some surprising plot twists in this story, particularly towards the end where the pace picks up and the stakes become a lot higher which had me reading into the early hours to discover what happened.

Be warned though – while a couple of the story elements are sorted out, this book ends on an almighty cliff-hanger. I’m hoping, therefore, that the second book is due to be released without too much delay as I would really like to know what happens next to Sage.
8/10

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 21st February, 2018

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Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week’s Can’t-Wait offering – The Magic Chair Murder: a 1920s English Mystery – A Black and Dod Mystery:1 by Diane James

#crime #murder mystery #historical

1929.

The night before she’s due to make a speech to the Robert Barnaby Society on the subject of the famous writer’s ‘magic chair’, committee member Linda Dexter disappears. When her body is discovered two days later, fellow members Frances Black and Tom Dod determine to find out the truth about her death.

Could Linda have discovered something about Robert Barnaby that got her killed? Or does the answer lie in the dead woman’s past? As they pursue their investigations, Fran and Tom find the Barnaby Society to be a hotbed of clashing egos, seething resentments and ill-advised love affairs – but does a killer lurk among them?

I think this one sounds great fun. Though I haven’t read anything by this author before, Severn Publishing have produced a steady stream of well-written, enjoyable murder mysteries that I have scooped up on Netgalley – and this looks to be another entertaining addition.

Teaser Tuesday – 20th February, 2018

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Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:
Into the Fire – Book 2 of Vatta’s Peace by Elizabeth Moon

18% “Pods aren’t equal,” Ky said, scowling at the tiny figures in the drawings then back to the descriptive text. “And there’s another level. Look—the ground-level rooms have the nice beds and so on … the upper one, the rooms are smaller, thicker-walled, no windows. Described as ‘treatment rooms for more severe conditions.’”
“Perfect for isolating problem people,” Rodney said.

BLURB: When Admiral Kylara Vatta and a ship full of strangers were marooned on an inhospitable arctic island, they uncovered secrets that someone on Ky’s planet was ready to kill to keep hidden. Now, the existence of the mysterious arctic base has been revealed, but the organisation behind it still lurks in the shadows, doing all it can to silence her.

I loved the first book, Cold Welcome, in this spinoff series from Moon’s successful Vatta’s War series and so far, I’m thoroughly engrossed in this one, too. Though I do think if you haven’t read the first series, you could probably be struggling with the raft of characters that hadn’t made an appearance in Cold Welcome.

Review of INDIE Ebook Defender – Book 2 of the Hive Mind series by Janet Edwards

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I was delighted when Himself got hold of this sequel to the first book, Telepath, which I really enjoyed as I was looking forward to catching up with Amber and her adventures.

Becoming a telepath was hard. Being a telepath is harder. 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 her team arrive too late. Someone is already dead. Someone that Amber knows. Amber is determined to catch the murderer, but she doesn’t realize who she’s up against, or the true danger of opening her mind to the thoughts of others.

The first book is a coming-of-age science fiction story featuring Amber when her telepathic abilities first manifest, so I was keen to see how Edwards would develop the story. I was also interested to discover if I liked Amber as much in this novel as I had in Telepath. Well, there were no worries there as Edwards is very good at writing engaging and positive young protagonists. The pacing is excellent and while I have read the first book, I don’t think anyone who hadn’t would have any difficulty in quickly getting involved in the story. So what about the crime aspect? As this is essentially a science-fiction whodunnit, the plot has to reflect that, with a suitably shocking crime and a tricky villain who is able to pose a real problem for someone who can read his mind.

I was impressed that Edwards managed to provide all these requirements with a fast paced, tight-knit storyline that once it took off, made it difficult for me to put the Kindle down. I also very much enjoyed how Amber is jeopardised by the very process of reading minds. This nicely upped the stakes both for herself and her team, which really mattered because I have grown to like the group of people who support and protect her. As she tries to grapple with this situation without sinking into permanent mental confusion, we also gain some intriguing insights into the rest of the world. I really appreciated being able to meet another telepath and it was reassuring to discover there is a high price to possessing such a talent, which gives the story a harder edge, which I appreciated.

The final denouement was suitably thrilling and once I reached it, there was no way I could stop reading before discovering how it all went down – I was already aware that Edwards is quite capable of killing one of her supporting characters, so I was fully invested in the story and genuinely concerned on behalf of the team. If you enjoy your crime with a futuristic twist, I highly recommend this series and while you can read this book as a stand-alone, I do think it would be a shame to miss out on Telepath goodness.
9/10

Sunday Post – 18th February, 2018

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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.

It’s been half term, so Life has been a tad less hectic as I caught up on some outstanding paperwork and finished an editing project in order to clear the decks to continue the rewrite on Miranda’s Tempest.

However I had a call to have the grandchildren a day early, so we went up on Wednesday to collect them. The weather was atrocious on Thursday – torrential rain and high winds, so we stayed indoors. Thank goodness on Friday, it stopped raining and the sun came out. It was absolutely beautiful for Frances to spend the morning drawing with my sister and then in the afternoon, Oscar and I had a round of crazy golf at the newly refurbished course, followed by a trip to the Harbour Lights café for a drink and a packet of crisps as we waited to pick up Frances, who was on a shopping trip with a friend. I had promised him a hot chocolate with soya milk, but sadly, the café only had cow’s milk on offer. He was a star and accepted a cold drink, instead.

Oscar has been enjoying the Winter Olympics – so watched with us. We all agreed the snowboard cross is our favourite event, closely followed by the half-pipe. Oscar is less impressed with curling, though I find the tactical aspect fascinating. We took the children home yesterday evening after a lovely few days with them – they are a delight.

Today I am hoping to make some headway on Miranda before I start back teaching tomorrow.

This week I have read:

Launch to Market: Easy Marketing for Authors by Chris Fox
Launch to Market provides a simple system to plan, track, and execute your book launch. It covers the basics of marketing in an easy to understand way, complete with exercises that will prepare you for your best launch ever. You’ll see real sales numbers from an author who just did exactly what you’re trying to do, with take aways that will show you exactly how I did it. Don’t leave the success of your novel up to chance. Launch your book to market.

Given I started my self publishing career at the end of last year, I thought it was high time I widened my focus from solely being all about the craft of writing to include the dark art of marketing. A really hands-on, nifty book full of practical ideas and tips.

 

The Eye of the North by Sinéad O’Hart
When Emmeline’s scientist parents mysteriously disappear, she finds herself heading for a safe house, where allies have pledged to protect her. But along the way, she is kidnapped by the villainous Doctor Siegfried Bauer

I thoroughly enjoyed this steampunk adventure. O’Hart’s rollicking adventure is packed full of vivid, engaging characters and action that had me turning the pages to discover what happens next – even though I am not the target audience.

 

Queen of Chaos – Book 3 of the Sequoyah trilogy by Sabrina Chase
The exciting conclusion to the Sequoyah trilogy.

Webspace pilot Moire Cameron is one of the best–but even she can’t fly her way out of a catastrophic drive failure that triggers a time-dilation bubble. Left suddenly eighty years out of date, she is on the run in a world she no longer knows, caught in the middle of a human-alien war while agents of Toren hunt her for the information only she has–the location of the pristine world of Sequoyah.

How’s that for a short and sweet blurb? That said, as this is the finale to Moire Cameron’s adventures, I have decided to add the blurb to the first book The Long Way Home to give you an idea of what this series is about, because if you are a fan of quality, character-led space opera then these books are well worth reading – and are ridiculously cheap…

 

Fire and Bone – Book 1 of the Otherborn series by Rachel A. Marks
“Gossip Girl meets Percy Jackson in the glitz and grit of L.A….”

In Hollywood’s underworld of demigods, druids, and ancient bonds, one girl has a dangerous future. Sage is eighteen, down on her luck, and struggling to survive on the streets of Los Angeles. Everything changes the night she’s invited to a party—one that turns out to be a trap. Thrust into a magical world hidden within the City of Angels, Sage discovers that she’s the daughter of a Celtic goddess, with powers that are only in their infancy. Now that she is of age, she’s asked to pledge her service to one of the five deities, all keen on winning her favor by any means possible. She has to admit that she’s tempted—especially when this new life comes with spells, Hollywood glam, and a bodyguard with secrets of his own. Not to mention a prince whose proposal could boost her rank in the Otherworld.

This wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, being an unexpectedly gritty read exploring some of the old Celtic myths full of dark blood magic and sacrifice underneath the fluff.

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 11th February 2018

New cover for Dying for Space – Book 2 of the Sunblinded trilogy by S.J. Higbee

Teaser Tuesday featuring Queen of Chaos – Book 2 of the Sequoyah series by Sabrina Chase

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring Fire and Bone – Book 1 of the Otherborn series by Rachel A. Marks

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Eye of the North by Sinéad O’Hart

Friday Face-off – Groovy baby… featuring Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory

Review of Raven’s Children – Book 2 of the Sequoyah series by Sabrina Chase

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

Not one of them was capable of lying… https://readlorigreer.com/2018/02/16/not-one-of-them-was-capable-of-lying/ I read this offering from W.H. Auden – one I didn’t know and since then the words have haunted me…

Chilean Open-Air Art https://charlesfrenchonwordsreadingandwriting.wordpress.com/2018/02/15/chilean-open-air-art/ These stunning examples are worth checking out…

How I Write Reviews http://booksbonesbuffy.com/2018/02/15/how-i-write-reviews/ This is a fascinating insight into the craft of review writing by one of my favourite reviewers.

10 of the Best Poems about Darkness https://interestingliterature.com/2018/02/14/10-of-the-best-poems-about-darkness/ This article includes two of my all-time favourites – ‘I Wake and Feel the Fell of Dark’ and ‘The Darkling Thrush’.

Twas the Night Before Valentine’s… http://authorkristenlamb.com/2018/02/twas-the-night-before-valentines-2/ I loved this anti-Valentine’s poem by social media jedi, Kristen Lamb.

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

Review of Indie Ebook Raven’s Children – Book 2 of the Sequoyah series by Sabrina Chase

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I loved the first book in this series and while I generally like to space out reading a series so I don’t lock onto an author’s writing tics, this time around I couldn’t wait so dived back into this book.

Moire Cameron, former NASA explorer and web pilot, now has a working ship, a loyal crew, an unexpected son, and a valuable Earthlike planet to protect from the clutches of Toren. However, her enemies won’t give up – and then, there’s the children…

I’ve cut short the rather chatty blurb and my advice is not to read it as it gives away far too much of the storyline. Moire is a strong protagonist, though this book doesn’t focus quite so much on her storyline as there is a lot going on around her. I love the fact that Chase drives forward the story, crackling with action and tension. If there is any grizzle, it is perhaps Moire’s character is slightly swamped by everything happening around her as events continue to teeter on the edge of disaster. There are moments when it would have been nice to slow down just a tad to fully appreciate how all the changes carrying on around her are fully impacting upon her. That said, it is a really picky point and is only engendered by my love for the character. As for the relationships around Moire – while she is rebuilding her life in this new world, she hasn’t the luxury of spending much time and energy to lavish on the people who she cares about. Apart from anything else, she is terrified of dragging them into the danger she is in.

I really enjoyed the way the story unfolds and the constant suspense and surprises that Chase manages to deliver. Some of the plot progression I could see coming – but a whole lot more caught me unawares and I enjoyed sinking into the rhythm of the story and going with the flow. The supporting cast around Moire also continue to develop, helping to power the story. The most intriguing plot thread concerns one of the salvage ships they find drifting, damaged and abandoned – and this particular discovery overrides all other concerns. This is cleverly handled by Chase, whose worldbuilding is very effective and is one of her strengths in this engrossing series. I’m looking forward to seeing how this plays out in the final book in the trilogy.

All in all, this book ended far too quickly and I can guarantee that it won’t be long before I also dive into the final book, Queen of Chaos, to find out how Chase wraps up this story. Recommended for fans of character-led space opera with a strong story.
9/10

Friday Faceoff – Groovy baby…

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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 week the theme is featuring a retro cover, so I’ve gone with Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory.

 

This cover, produced by Knopf in June 2017, is quirky and clearly harking back to another time with the silhouetted profiles of the main protagonists – the Telemachus family. I have mixed feelings about this. I like the clean look and the attractive font used for the title and author name, but I really don’t like the black silhouette pictures as this art form was particularly popular during the Victorian era, which I think is confusing, given we do not go back to Victorian times in this accomplished, memorable novel.

 

This edition was produced by riverrun in June 2017. I prefer this one to the first offering. The clunky TV with the smiling family has a real retro feel, along with that hard blue colour that I recall from my early childhood. The font and author name looks attractive and while I like the strapline along the bottom, I think it’s a shame they saw fit to cram that clutter in the top left of the cover.

 

Published in February 2018 by Eichborn, this German edition is the most effective cover in my opinion. That wonderful orange swirling wallpaper gives a lovely retro feel and I love the photos, particularly that of the mother who died before her time. It is her death that shatters the family. I love the sadness on her face – and that classic hairstyle. A clever, eye-catching cover that relates directly to the content, this is my favourite but which is yours?

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Eye of the North by Sinéad O’Hart

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I wanted to read and review more YA and children’s books this year, so when this one caught my eye due to the interesting premise, I requested it and couldn’t be more pleased. It’s a delight…

When Emmeline’s scientist parents mysteriously disappear, she finds herself heading for a safe house, where allies have pledged to protect her. But along the way, things don’t go as planned…

This steampunk adventure is huge fun that hits the ground running and doesn’t let up until the end. Emmeline is brought up a solitary child in a creepy house infested with all sorts of dangerous creatures and is more or less left to get on with it as her scientist parents have to do a lot of travelling. Until a fateful day when everything goes wrong… Do try to avoid reading the blurb which is far too chatty and gives away more of the plot than is necessary. That said, there is plenty of plot in this action-packed story brimful of interesting, likeable characters. Generally I am not a huge fan of stories where yet another set of new characters pop up in each scene, but somehow O’Hart manages to pull it off. Other than Emmeline, whose gritty self-assurance gets her through all sorts of tight spots, my favourite character has to be Thing, the vagabond boy she encounters on the liner. But there are plenty of other enjoyable, strong-minded characters to choose from as steampunk tends to roll along with lots of action and relatively little angst. It was when Thing had a wobble about his grim childhood that I bonded with him and felt that vulnerability gave him more reader-appeal.

There is also a pleasing number of unpleasant villains ranged against Emmeline and the people trying to prevent the impending apocalypse – my favourite is Doctor Siegfried Bauer as he is so magnificently horrible, especially to poor Emmeline. But the North Witch is also a thoroughly nasty character who poses all sorts of problems. Once the action really takes off, we have the two main protagonists, Emmeline and Thing alternating in telling the story, occasionally interspersed by other members of the supporting cast. O’Hart’s strong writing and deft handling of the rising tension makes this a really gripping read that didn’t want to let me go when I should have been up and about instead of finishing the book.

The denouement has to deliver after so much energy and tension has been expended during the rising action and in this case, it does, while all the dangling plotpoints are satisfactorily tidied up. I’m very much hoping that this book does well, because although I cannot see any sign of this being the first in a series, I’d love to read more about Emmeline and her family in another madcap adventure. Recommended for precocious readers from 10/11 years old onwards.
9/10