Tag Archives: science fiction adventure

Friday Faceoff – Little green men…

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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 aliens, so I’ve chosen The Tar-Aiym Krang – Book 1 of the Pip and Flinx series by Alan Dean Foster.

 

pipflinx1This is the offering produced by Random Del Rey in November 1981. I like this cover, with its depiction of young Flinx and the scales of the little dragon as the backdrop for the font.

 

pipflinxThis cover produced by Del Rey in November 1981 shows its age with the bright colours and the comic-style depiction of the figures. I have a real soft spot for these types of covers – the science fiction I fell in love with was packaged in these covers. And this one, I think, shouts adventure and escape.

 

pipflinx3This cover, also produced in November 1981 by Ballantine Books is my favourite. I like the bright colour and the detail. The figure sitting on the throne-like chair facing away is intriguing – as it the disturbing link with the winged creature in the background. I also really love the quirky font.

 

pipflinx2This effort is produced by the New English Library Ltd in January 1979 with its depiction of a space shuttle landing about to land. The sky with its cloud cover and glimpses of the ground below is interesting. Again, this one is of its time – but is a tad generic.
Which one do you like best?

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Martians Aboard by Carrie Vaughn

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I picked this one up from my NetGalley arcs, hoping to get slightly ahead during the holiday period, rather than wanting to start the year with an engrossing book, so it was a lovely surprise when this YA science fiction offering turned out to be such fun.

martiansabroadPolly Newton has one single-minded dream, to be a starship pilot and travel the galaxy. Her mother, the director of the Mars Colony, derails Polly’s plans when she sends Polly and her genius twin brother, Charles, to Galileo Academy on Earth—the one planet Polly has no desire to visit. Ever. Homesick and cut off from her desired future, Polly cannot seem to fit into the constraints of life on Earth, unlike Charles, who deftly manoeuvers around people and sees through their behavior to their true motives. Strange, unexplained, dangerous coincidences centered on their high-profile classmates begin piling up. Charles may be right—there’s more going on than would appear, and the stakes are high. With the help of Charles, Polly is determined to find the truth, no matter the cost.

This entertaining book contains many elements familiar to YA fans, such as teenage protagonists, a school setting and the difficulties of establishing friendships in a potentially hostile, dangerous environment. The enjoyable twist Vaughn adds is that Polly and Charles are Martians, born and bred. So they struggle in Earth’s heavier gravity, immediately standing out as they are paler skinned, taller and thinner than Earth-born children. I loved seeing our home planet through Polly’s jaundiced eyes. She is horrified at the amount of life heaving in the soil and infesting all the plants and shocked at how profligate Earth inhabitants are with water and air. I loved reading of her struggle to cope on her first foray outside in a world without a protective dome. These details of scene setting that ordinarily are taken in alongside the story became a joy to read, along with Polly’s unenthusiastic take on her fellow students.

She is also chafing at the tightly controlled school regime, though her boredom is increasingly alleviated by the steady trickle of disturbing incidents that start to stack up. I also enjoyed her squabbles with her insufferably smug and clever brother, Charles. While he does look out for her, he’d rather rip his tongue out by the roots than admit it – typical teenage brother, in other words. The spiky relationship between the siblings feels pleasingly realistic and nicely unsentimental.

This one proved very difficult to put down as the tension rapidly increased and I found myself engrossed in Polly’s world, trying to work out what was going on. The denouement was a surprise, though it did make sense and I came to the end of the book far sooner than I wanted. More please, Carrie Vaughn!

And if you are a fan of Janet Edwards’ Earthgirl series, then take a look at this book which I recommend. Receiving a copy of Martians Abroad from the publisher via NetGalley has in no way affected my honest opinion of this book.
9/10

Sunday Post – 15th January 2017

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Sunday Post

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

This week was full throttle as I started back at Northbrook with the new term – the first session is my least favourite as we always have a mound of admin to wade through, but it was lovely to see everyone again. I also resumed my exercise classes – more fun and I wasn’t as stiff and sore as I thought I’d be, which was also a bonus! On Wednesday evening, I went to see a film of the live performance of The Tempest by the RSC at Stratford at the Connaught in Worthing. It was amazing – the special effects and the performances were stunning and filled me with the desire to see the real thing at The Barbican. I should have gone to the monthly West Sussex Writers’ meeting on Thursday night but the weather had other ideas. The rain turned to sleet with the forecast for snow later in the evening and I decided not venture out – I don’t do driving in snow if I can possibly avoid it. This week-end I’m grannying again, which is lovely as ever.

This week I have read:
A Symphony of Echoes – Book 2 of The Chronicles of St Mary’s by Jodi Taylor
In the second book in the Chronicles of St Mary’s series, Max and the team visit Victorian London in asymphonyofechoessearch of Jack the Ripper, witness the murder of Archbishop Thomas a Becket in Canterbury Cathedral, and discover that dodos make a grockling noise when eating cucumber sandwiches.

But they must also confront an enemy intent on destroying St Mary’s – an enemy willing, if necessary, to destroy History itself to do it.

This time-travelling adrenaline-filled adventure is every bit as foot to the floor as the first book, Just One Damned Thing After Another. I enjoyed following the exploits of Max and her fellow historians as they witness and chronicle some of the most famous events in History at great risk to their lives and look forward to continuing with this series.

Emperor of the Fireflies – Book 2 of the Tide Dragons series by Sarah Ash
emperorofthefirefliesKai and Masao, once enemies, are now condemned to the sea by the Tide Dragons Sacrifice. If Hotaru, the new emperor, is unable to summon the Tide Dragons of Ebb and Flood at the Autumn Moon Festival, he will forfeit the right to rule Cipangu. The two Sacrifices face a desperate race against time to free themselves from this ancient curse before Hotaru binds them with forbidden magic to obey his will – forever.

Sakami, Kai’s lover, has become a kitsune, a fox spirit. She is determined to do all in her power to save him – but is Hotaru, aided by his treacherous shikigami, Kurika, just too formidable an opponent to overcome?

This is a joy. I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting this vividly depicted Japanese world and quickly got swept back up into the story from where The Flood Dragon’s Sacrifice left off. I love the fact that we not only get a ringside seat at what is going on with the protagonists, but we also get to know what is driving the main antagonists, too. It makes for an enjoyably nuanced tale. I’ll be reviewing it in due course.

My posts last week:
Sunday Post – 8th January 2017

Review of The King’s Peace – Book 1 of the Tir Tanagiri series by Jo Walton

Teaser Tuesday featuring Emperor of the Fireflies – Book 2 of the Tide Dragons by Sarah Ash

Shoot for the Moon 2016 Challenge – How Did I Do?

My Outstanding Books of 2016

Friday Faceoff – Nobody likes a clown at midnight… featuring Chicot the Jester by Alexandre Dumas

Review of The Falconer – Book 1 of The Falconer series by Elizabeth May

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:
50 Word Stories: Breakfast Memories https://richardankers.com/2017/01/14/50-word-stories-breakfast-memories/ Another quirky offering from the talented Richard Ankers

Inspirational F. Scott Fitzgerald quotes http://logicalquotes.com/f-scott-fitzgerald-quotes/
There are some really smart, enjoyably clever quotes in this post.

10 of the Best Short Literary Epitaphs https://interestingliterature.com/2017/01/13/10-of-the-best-short-literary-epitaphs/ …and this one does exactly what it says…

Most Requested #6 Jan 2017 https://librarystaffpicks.wordpress.com/2017/01/12/most-requested-6-jan-2017/ It always makes fascinating reading to discover what is the most requested book in the Ballyroan area

Thursday Doors https://jeanreinhardt.wordpress.com/2017/01/12/thursday-doors-74/ This popular weekly post looking at different doors takes a slightly grim turn…

Many thanks for visiting and taking the time and trouble to comment – and may you have a wonderful reading and blogging week.

Review of KINDLE Ebook Just One Damned Thing After Another – Book 1 of The Chronicles of St Mary’s by Jodi Taylor

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“History is just one damned thing after another.” Behind the seemingly innocuous façade of St Mary’s, a different kind of historical research is taking place. They don’t do ‘time-travel’ – they ‘investigate major historical events in contemporary time’. Maintaining the appearance of harmless eccentrics is not always within their power – especially given their propensity for causing loud explosions when things get too quiet. Meet the disaster-magnets of St Mary’s Institute of Historical Research as they ricochet around History. Their aim is to observe and document – to try and find the answers to many of History’s unanswered questions…and not to die in the process. But one wrong move and History will fight back – to the death. And, as they soon discover – it’s not just History they’re fighting.

jsutonedamnedthingWell this is fun! Though that’s not to say there aren’t regularly tragedies – the edgy sense of coping with the steady attrition of dying historians reminds me of the war stories I’ve read. But Max’s spiky first person narrative is all about gritting her teeth and moving forward from an abusive childhood, when she is recruited by the folks at St Mary’s to help study ‘historical events in contemporary time’. There isn’t a lot of technical chat as to how or why the pods they use are able to travel back in time, but there are solid rules. One of them is that History has its own impetus, so that if anyone tries to bring something back, or affect the course of events already laid down, they quickly meet a sticky end…

The plot surges forward, along with an unfolding love story, which has to be negotiated amongst the challenging projects the St Mary’s team are constantly being asked to carry out. This is definitely a time-travelling adventure with a romantic plotline, rather than an unfolding romance in a time-travelling setting. Though this being an adult book, there are a couple of fairly graphic sex scenes. As I was reading this one, I was thinking just what a great TV series it would make – there are plenty of plot twists and unexpected reversals that kept me engrossed throughout and I’m delighted we have the next book in the series. This is another series I’ll be revisiting just as soon as I can and comes highly recommended.
9/10

Friday Faceoff – As Old As the Hills…

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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’s theme is mountains and hills, so I have selected C.J. Cherryh’s first book in her cracking Finisterre duology, Rider at the Gate.

rideratthegateThis is the cover produced by Aspect in September 1996. It certainly gives a sense of the bitterly cold weather and mountainous, challenging landscape. I also love the pink sky, but the great clunky chunks of purple with the raised title and author name do detract from the overall look of the cover, I think.

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This hardcover edition was published by Aspect in August 1995. While I think the figures are depicted with plenty of drama and movement, once more the title crashes through the artwork and mood.

rideratthegate2This offering, published by Hodder & Stoughton in January is another view of the first snowscape. While the title and author’s name is prominent, at least it doesn’t completely swamp the artwork and mood music. I love the colouring, and this cover is my favourite, despite the poor quality of the reproduction.

rideratthegate3This cover is for the January 1995 edition, published in Franced J’ai Lu. And what a difference a sympathetic font makes… Suddenly the arresting picture on the front is able to bounce off the cover and shout ‘Buy me – I’m a wonderful story!’. Which, indeed it is. Which of these covers is your favourite?

Review of KINDLE Ebook Frontier – an Epsilon Sector novella by Janet Edwards

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This is a standalone novella that nonetheless nests within the excellent Earthgirl series – see my review of Earthgirl here.

frontierAmalie’s the last unmarried girl in Jain’s Ford settlement. Life on a frontier farming planet in the twenty-eighth century has a few complications. The imported Earth animals and plants don’t always interact well with the local ecology, and there’s a shortage of doctors and teachers. The biggest problem though is the fact there are always more male than female colonists arriving from other worlds. Single men outnumber single women by ten to one, and girls are expected to marry at seventeen. Amalie turned seventeen six months ago, and she’s had nineteen perfectly respectable offers of marriage. Everyone is pressuring her to choose a husband, or possibly two of them. When Amalie’s given an unexpected chance of a totally different future, she’s tempted to take it, but then she gets her twentieth offer of marriage and it’s one she can’t possibly refuse.

Edwards writes with a chirpy energy that has her heroine pinging off the page with a likeable can-do attitude I find very endearing. Amalie is the eldest of eleven children and is used to making do so her tough practicality shines throughout this story. Because the character is both engaging and believable and the worldbuilding is filtered entirely through her, I found the newly established colony plausible and engrossing. Edwards perfectly depicts a small community with the town gossip, the eccentrics, the misfit with too much money and the rough-edged type of boisterous behaviour in the bar where Amalie works that would probably come to the attention of the law enforcement authorities in a more established settlement.

I’m a fan of a story that steadily builds on a series of small, everyday details that finally collide in a dramatic event – and Edwards is very skilled at handling this dynamic. Alongside her struggle to find the right husband – and avoid the plethora of wrong ones – Amalie is also trying to ensure her father’s experimental crop is successful. The sudden drama that impacts on the situation works well in raising the stakes for everyone in the small community and providing a reminder that life in such a place is always going to be risky.

Edwards perfectly judges the pacing and narrative arc for this novella and brings the story to a thoroughly satisfying conclusion. Those of you who found the Earthgirl series a delight and would like to once more experience this mostly upbeat, enjoyable world should track down this novella – it won’t disappoint.
9/10

Teaser Tuesday – 25th October, 2016

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Teaser

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Books and a Beat.
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:
Heirs of Empire – Book 1 of The Scourwind Legacy by Evan C. Currie
2% “Well, slaughter a few thousand people and you do get a bit of a reputation,” he said, standing up. “I heirsofempirehonestly should have killed more. No one really seems to mind if your kill list tops a million for some reason. The difference between a murderer and a statesman, don’t you know?”
“Statesman? You led a revolt against the lawful government, using chemical warfare as your lead weapon. That’s not statesmanship, that’s a psychotic break,” Mira told him.

BLURB: The Scourwind family legacy brought the empire to the height of its power and prosperity and defended it against all enemies. Now one man’s machinations aim to shift the balance of power—with violent and devastating consequences. As the stakes rise, loyalists, mercenaries, and political opportunists rally around the heirs in a desperate bid to unseat the usurper. But if their risky gambit fails, will the empire crumble into oblivion?

As you can see, I’ve only just started this one. However, I have high hopes for it – Himself has read one of his other series and enjoyed it. I will be reviewing the sequel to this book for Netgalley in due course and thought it might be an idea to be organised enough to read the first book before tucking into it. So hopefully, I’ll be writing a review for this one next week…

Review of Solar Express by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

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A book that displays both a spacescape and the name of a favourite author isn’t going to be left on the library shelves for long. I scooped this one up, despite the huge pile of books stacking up on my TBR pile. Would it prove to be a good choice?

solarexpressYou can’t militarize space. This one rule has led to decades of peaceful development of space programs worldwide. However, increasing resource scarcity and a changing climate on Earth’s surface is causing some interested parties to militarize, namely India, the North American Union, and the Sinese Federation. The discovery of a strange artifact by Dr. Alayna Wong precipitates a crisis. What appears to be a hitherto undiscovered comet is soon revealed to be an alien structure on a cometary trajectory toward the sun. Now there is a race between countries to see who can study and control the artifact dubbed the “Solar Express” before it perhaps destroys itself.

That is some of the rather chatty blurb. What it doesn’t convey is the steady, unhurried pace of this hard sci fi adventure, which bristles with acronyms and technical details for those of us who like plenty of science alongside their fiction. Though it did mean that I wasn’t romping through this one at any speed – I don’t have a scientific background, so I need to pay attention when reading books long on technical detail.

However, that doesn’t mean plodding or remotely boring. Modesitt sets up the premise and world and then steadily ramps up the stakes as this mysterious artefact speeds ever closer to the sun. The two characters that bring this adventure to life is Alayna Wong and Chris Tavoian. Wong is on Daedalus Base, observing the sun for her own study on the granulations on its surface when she spots an anomalous object. Chris is a pilot she meets on the outward journey, who becomes a firm friend as they continue to exchange messages to each other. But when he agrees to take the mission to man the ship sent out to explore this artefact, Alayna Wong has a unique view of the drama that plays out at the site. Meanwhile Chris grapples with the unknown material of the artefact as the situation goes on getting ever more dangerous.

I love the way Modesitt adds all sorts of everyday details – we get to know what the protagonists are eating, how they spend their spare time and who they care and worry about. This means that when the stakes are heightened, I care and fully identify with them. What Modesitt doesn’t do, is ramp up the pace to some breathless, foot-to-the floor tempo, so as the crisis intensifies there is time to appreciate all the ramifications. I really enjoyed this one.
8/10

2016 Discovery Challenge – May Roundup

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After reading Joanne Hall’s thought-provoking post, I decided to read and review at least two women authors unknown to me each month. How have I done in May?

theoutliersThe Outliers – Book 1 of The Outliers trilogy by Kimberley McCreight
It all starts with a text: Please, Wylie, I need your help.
This time it’s different, though. Instead of telling Wylie where she is, Cassie sends cryptic clues. And instead of having Wylie come by herself, Jasper shows up saying Cassie sent him to help. Trusting the guy who sent Cassie off the rails doesn’t feel right, but Wylie has no choice: she has to ignore her gut instinct and go with him. But figuring out where Cassie is goes from difficult to dangerous, fast. As Wylie and Jasper head farther and farther north into the dense woods of Maine, Wylie struggles to control her growing sense that something is really wrong. What isn’t Cassie telling them? And could finding her be only the beginning?

This twisting thriller cracks along at a fair pace and delivers plenty of surprises along the way. Read the full review here.

 

thelonelinessofdistantbeingsThe Loneliness of Distant Beings by Kate Ling
Even though she knows it’s impossible, Seren longs to have the sunshine on her skin. It’s something she feels she needs to stay sane. But when you’re floating through space at thousands of kilometres an hour, sometimes you have to accept there are things you cannot change. Except that the arrival of Dom in her life changes everything in ways she can barely comprehend. For a while he becomes the Sun for her; and she can’t help but stay in his orbit. Being with him flaunts every rule designed to keep their home in order, but to lose him would be like losing herself. In the end they must decide what is most important: loyalty to the only home they’ve ever known, or to each other?

This a romantic science fiction tale set on a generational ship – with heavy emphasis on the romance bit. Despite the fact that isn’t my go-to genre, the scene setting and shipboard environment is well depicted – read my full review here.

 

Banished – Book 1 of The Blackhart Legacy by Liz de JagerBanished
Sworn to protect, honour and slay. Because chaos won’t banish itself… Kit is proud to be a Blackhart, now she’s encountered her unorthodox cousins and their strange lives. And her home-schooling now includes spells, fighting enemy fae and using ancient weapons. But it’s not until she rescues a rather handsome fae prince, fighting for his life on the edge of Blackhart Manor, that her training really kicks in. With her family away on various missions, Kit must protect Prince Thorn, rely on new friends and use her own unfamiliar magic to stay ahead of Thorn’s enemies. As things go from bad to apocalyptic, fae battle fae in a war that threatens to spill into the human world. Then Kit pits herself against the Elder Gods themselves – it’s that or lose everyone she’s learnt to love.

This Fae story is well written and engrossing – I really enjoyed the fight scenes, which were vividly depicted and the real nastiness of the foes. I’ll be reviewing this in due course.

 

thenothinggirlThe Nothing Girl by Jodi Taylor
Known as “The Nothing Girl” because of her severe stutter and chronically low self-confidence, Jenny Dove is only just prevented from ending it all by the sudden appearance of Thomas, a mystical golden horse only she can see. Under his guidance, Jenny unexpectedly acquires a husband – the charming and chaotic Russell Checkland – and for her, nothing will ever be the same again. With over-protective relatives on one hand and the world’s most erratic spouse on the other, Jenny needs to become Someone. And fast!

This book made my husband laugh and cry and he forcefully recommended it – so I read it… This contemporary/family/crime/mystery/romance is something of a genre mash-up, with a hefty dollop of humour and sadness thrown in. Have a go – you won’t have read anything else quite like it. My review is here.

 

Change of Life – Book 2 of A Menopausal Superhero by Samantha Bryantchangeoflife
With great power comes…great frustration. Several months after the events of Going Through the Change, retired corporate vice president (and occasional lizard-woman) Patricia O’Neill is embroiled in a search for the mad scientist who brought the “change” upon them all. Meanwhile, Flygirl Jessica Roark and gender-bending strongman Linda/Leonel Alvarez have joined a mysterious covert agency known only as The Department. They’re training hard, in hopes of using their newfound powers for the greater good. Patricia thinks they’re being used. Cut off from the other menopausal heroes, she’s alone. And her search has hit a serious dead end. Then Patricia disappears, and all the clues point to a dead man. It’s up to her friends and The Department to find her and bring her home

I expected this to be a parody of the superhero genre, but it follows most of the genre conventions – except the protagonists are women of a certain age… There are some amusing touches and I love Bryant’s original take on what superpowers can endow. See my review here

This month, I more than doubled my original target with five books by women authors I hadn’t previously encountered and of the 66 books I’ve read so far this year, 30 are by authors new to me. Once more, I have to thank the NetGalley arcs for introducing me to many of these writers. While I cannot see myself able to sustain this throughout the year – I’ve too many other things on my plate – I’m delighted I’ve managed to make such a strong start to my 2016 Discovery Challenge.

Friday Faceoff – You Got the Blues

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This is a new meme started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This week’s topic is to find two eye-catching covers which are predominantly blue. And this one jumped into my mind…

I’m bending the rules, somewhat (again!) as both covers this week are British – this first one is the original by Egmont, who published the book last year. I like the fact it has a strong relationship with the first book in the series, the awesome, Mars Evacuees, as well as directly relating to characters in the book. The slightly blocky collage effect somehow reflects the humour that runs through both books in this outstanding series.

 

spacehostages

And yet… I also like this latest iteration of Space Hostages published this year by HarperCollins. It is far more polished, and still features the main characters during the defining, dramatic moment around which the whole plot is created. And this time around – I cannot decide. I love them both… Perhaps because I am completely besotted with the book as one of my favourite reads of the year, so far.

spacehostages1

So, I’m going to have to rely on you folks to decide – which do you think is the best cover? And if you haven’t yet read it – get hold of a copy. Grab a child to read it to, or just do your inner child a favour. Some books are just too good to leave in the Children’s section – why should they have all the fun?