Tag Archives: science fiction

Review of Satan’s Reach – Book 2 of the Weird Space series by Eric Brown

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I happened to be in the library, browsing the shelves when this offering beckoned. I couldn’t resist, given that I enjoy Brown’s writing – see my review of Engineman, which has some of my favourite scene setting of any sci fi novel, ever…

Telepath Den Harper did the dirty work for the authoritarian Expansion, reading the minds of criminals, spies and undesirables. Unable to take the strain, he stole a starship and headed into the unknown, a sector of lawless space known as Satan’s Reach. For five years he worked as a trader among the stars; then discovered that the Expansion had set a bounty hunter on his trail. But what does the Expansion want with a lowly telepath like Harper? Is there validity in the rumours that human space is being invaded by aliens from another realm? Harper finds out the answer to both these questions when he rescues an orphan girl from certain death.

Den is a likeable chap in a tricky situation, which gets steadily trickier as this fast-paced, enjoyable space opera progresses. This is space opera where the universe is heaving with multitudes of aliens and faster-than-light travels occurs such that zipping between planets takes a matter of weeks. That’s okay – I can happily cope with that. Brown evokes a vivid range of worlds with differing climates, customs and lifestyles in amongst the mayhem, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I also liked the very efficient and adaptable spaceship Den has managed to snag for himself.

Initially, I thought it was all a bit too good to be true, but Brown manages to nicely weave into the storyline the reason why said ship is quite so nifty and needless to say, it all ends in tears… I liked the fact that Den’s gift of telepathy comes at a terrible price – he finds it painful to mindread, particularly alien minds so spends most of his time heavily shielded. He is also rather withdrawn, preferring his own company, which I found entirely plausible.

The story development is excellent – just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, it did so that I read far later into the night when I should have put the book down and got some sleep. Any niggles – I could have done without the romantic element as I thought it out of character for both the protagonists concerned. But as there are two more books in this series, I’m guessing it isn’t all going to run smoothly from hereon in.

Overall, a cracking read from a writer who really knows his craft and if you like your space opera with plenty of excitement and enjoyable worlds, then this one is recommended.
8/10

Sunday Post – 29th 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.

It hasn’t been a busy week as I’ve not been very well, trying to cope with a persistent, low-grade headache. It started on Sunday and I struggled on through teaching on Monday and Tuesday – I also had one of my lovely writing groups over for a meal and feedback on Tuesday night. But come Wednesday, I’d had enough. I declared myself beaten and retreated to bed where I’ve been mostly sleeping and reading and occasionally facing the computer, which has made me feel sick again. Feeling better now, though still getting tired far too easily. Hopefully I’ll be feeling a lot better next week.

Number One Son flew out the States on Monday and it was relief when I heard he’d arrived safe and sound. God bless modern communication technology.

I’m officially fed up with winter. The nights have been so wretchedly cold and Monday was horrible with freezing fog, having to drive into Northbrook College at night. But at least it hasn’t snowed this year, yet, so I must be grateful for small mercies.

This week I have read:
A Closed and Common Orbit – Book 2 of The Wayfarers series by Becky Chambers
Lovelace was once merely a ship’s artificial intelligence. When she wakes up in a new body, aclosedandcommonorbitfollowing a total system shut-down and reboot, she has no memory of what came before. As Lovelace learns to negotiate the universe and discover who she is, she makes friends with Pepper, an excitable engineer, who’s determined to help her learn and grow.

I thoroughly enjoyed Chambers’ first book in this series The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, but I preferred this offering. This dual narrative switches between Lovelace and Pepper, both engrossing and interesting layered characters. I shall be reviewing it in due course.

 

The Massacre of Mankind by Stephen Baxter
themassacreofmankindIt has been 14 years since the Martians invaded England. The world has moved on, always watching the skies but content that we know how to defeat the Martian menace. Machinery looted from the abandoned capsules and war-machines has led to technological leaps forward. The Martians are vulnerable to earth germs. The Army is prepared.
So when the signs of launches on Mars are seen, there seems little reason to worry. Unless you listen to one man, Walter Jenkins, the narrator of Wells’ book. He is sure that the Martians have learned, adapted, understood their defeat.
He is right.

This offering is the approved sequel to H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds and Baxter has triumphantly evoked the tone and feel of the original classic invasion story, while injecting plenty of original action and excitement. If you are a fan of Wells’ book, I recommend you have a go at this one – it’s a blast with a delightful twist at the end.

 

Radio Boy by Christian O’Donnell
Meet Spike, aka Radio Boy: a new Adrian Mole on the radio for the internet generation.radioboy

Spike’s your average awkward 11 year old, funny and cheeky and with a mum to reckon with. When he becomes the first presenter ever to be sacked from hospital radio, he decides, with the help of his father and two best friends, to take other steps. However, it all spins out of control…

This is an amusing children’s book with an engaging protagonist and plenty of action with some important underlying messages without being preachy or stuffy. Ideal for newly independent readers and one that I shall be reading to my granddaughter.

 

Windwitch – Book 2 of The Witchlands series by Susan Dennard
windwitchAfter an explosion destroys his ship, the world believes Prince Merik, Windwitch, is dead. Scarred yet alive, Merik is determined to prove his sister’s treachery. Upon reaching the royal capital, crowded with refugees, he haunts the streets, fighting for the weak—which leads to whispers of a disfigured demigod, the Fury, who brings justice to the oppressed.

When the Bloodwitch Aeduan discovers a bounty on Iseult, he makes sure to be the first to find her—yet in a surprise twist, Iseult offers him a deal. She will return money stolen from him, if he locates Safi. Now they must work together to cross the Witchlands, while constantly wondering, who will betray whom first?

After a surprise attack and shipwreck, Safi and the Empress of Marstok barely escape with their lives. Alone in a land of pirates, every moment balances on a knife’s edge—especially when the pirates’ next move could unleash war upon the Witchlands.

The above blurb takes you to the start of this engaging sequel, so my firm advice is to get hold of Truthwitch before tucking into this enjoyable, YA epic fantasy. As might be deduced by the title, this offering focuses on Prince Merik, however we do still follow the fortunes of Safi and Iseult. The narrative comes to a dramatic ending but there are still plenty of dangling plotlines all waiting to be tied up in the next book.

 

Old Bones – A Detective Inspector Slider Mystery by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
A young couple discover human remains buried in the garden of their new house: could this be oldbonesthe resting place of 14-year-old Amanda Knight, who disappeared from the same garden two decades before, and was never seen again?
The problem comes almost as a relief to DCI Slider, still suffering from the fallout of his previous case. He is not popular with the Powers That Be, and his immediate boss, Detective Superintendent Porson, reckons that at least this little puzzle will keep Slider out of trouble. After all, with a murder twenty years in the past, this is the coldest of cold cases. Most of the suspects and principal players are now dead too, and all passion is long spent … Or is it?

Well this is fun! I haven’t read any of Harrod-Eagles writing before and I’m now a solid fan of this popular, prolific author. This established series is definitely going to be one I shall be revisiting. I loved Slider’s grumpy, desert-dry humour and while I guessed some of the elements of the mystery, it didn’t matter because I was so caught up with the characters, I was in for the duration.

My posts last week:
Sunday Post – 22nd January 2017

Review of Emperor of the Fireflies by Sarah Ash

Teaser Tuesday featuring The Massacre of Mankind by Stephen Baxter

PREVIEW of Empire Games by Charles Stross

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL – Review of The Massacre of Mankind by Stephen Baxter

Friday Faceoff – A Room Without Books Is Like a Body Without a Soul featuring The Physic Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL – Review of Windwitch – Book 2 of The Witchlands by Susan Dennard

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:
Johnny Cash, Debbie Harry & Gene Autry chase Ghost Riders in the Sky – https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2017/01/26/johnny-cash-debbie-harry-gene-autry-chase-ghost-riders-in-the-sky/
In this delightful article, Thom gives us various versions of this classic song, after explaining why it matters so much to him. If you enjoy reading lyrically beautiful prose in praise of music, then this is must-read blog.

Tips For Helping Me Blog – https://onereadersthoughts.com/2017/01/27/ff-tips-for-helping-me-blog%ef%bb%bf/
Emma gives some useful tips in order to help keep our blogging schedules straight.

Never Press DELETE http://melfka.com/archives/2068
Joanna provides some useful advice for writers that I regularly find myself saying to my students – while horrified at how many who throw away or delete their own work…

Win 50 Books for a School or Library https://kristentwardowski.wordpress.com/2017/01/27/win-50-books-for-a-school-or-library/
I thought I’d spread the word about this competition – let’s face it we all know schools or libraries which could do with 50 more books…

Five Fascinating Facts about Shakespeare’s The Tempest
https://interestingliterature.com/2017/01/27/five-fascinating-facts-about-shakespeares-the-tempest/ I found this article particularly interesting as I’m in the process of rewriting my novel which is a sequel, exploring what happens to Miranda and Prospero once they leave their enchanted island…

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 of A Symphony of Echoes – Book 2 of The Chronicles of St Mary’s by Jodi Taylor

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We are back at St Mary’s, a top secret, government establishment where historians travel back in time to investigate what really happened. It’s an exciting and dangerous occupation that requires a certain attitude, which our protagonist Max has in spades…

asymphonyofechoesThe sequel to the hit book Just One Damned Thing After Another. Follow the adventures of those tea-sodden historians at St Mary’s as once again they dance on the edge of disaster.

And there you have it – the blurb certainly doesn’t venture anywhere near spoiler territory, does it? Once again, Taylor’s punchy prose scoops the reader up into Max’s world and catapults us into the middle of St Mary’s, where Max feels she belongs for the first time in her life. If she didn’t have such a desert-dry sense of humour, this could be a very grim read as plenty goes wrong. I keep thinking, as I read all the sudden reverses and nasty surprises that constantly assail our adventurers, that this series would transfer very well to TV. In the meantime, it’s a joy to read it as the rain lashes down outside and I feel comfortably happy I’m not in the middle of these disasters.

A routine journey to check out the Hanging Gardens of Babylon goes wrong to the extent that I realised why so many of the time-travelling historians die and then an antagonist from the first book pops up, causing yet more mayhem. Having said that – Taylor has written this one, so that if you did pick it up unaware it was part of a series, you wouldn’t flounder for long.

For all her snarky asides – which I love – Max has had a dire childhood which has left her with scars and vulnerabilities and it is this mix of gutsy derring-do and sudden, painfilled fury that makes her such an engrossing protagonist. She regularly gets things spectacularly wrong and never fails to come out swinging when her back is against the wall, being brave to the point of foolhardiness.

Taylor keeps the pace up, often skipping the preparation or lead-up to an expedition so one moment it is being proposed – and the next we are right in the middle of Babylon or at the court of Mary, Queen of Scots. I found myself at the end of the book with something of a jolt, wanting yet more and convinced the slight lull in between the action was merely a precursor to yet another hair-raising adventure. And it won’t be long before I return to this series, for it has wormed its way into my head so I often find myself thinking of Max, Leon and Peter and wondering what will next go wrong for them. If you enjoy time travelling tales with plenty of action, then don’t start here – go looking for Just One Damned Thing After Another, which is a quote about the way some historians view history, apparently. It certainly seems to be the case at St Mary’s.
10/10

My Outstanding Books of 2016

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Last year was an amazing year for reading. I cannot recall when I last read so many exciting, engrossing and well crafted books. Below are the ones which have left a niche in my inscape so they may not have initially got a 10/10, but nevertheless these are the ones that have stayed with me…

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

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This amazing, thought provoking series is essentially examining Plato’s ideas for an ideal society striving towards excellence as propounded in The Republic. It’s quirky, imaginative and clever – vintage Walton in other words. She has to be one of the most exciting, talented writers of our age.

 

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

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This is a variation of the ‘Beauty and the Beast’ story that is filled with mystery, magic and a strong sense of place. The isolation and brooding sense of being at the whim of someone who is perhaps not wholly stable permeates the book.

 

The Many Selves of Katherine North by Emma Geen

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This hard science fiction tale of a shape-shifter is an extraordinary book, rich with techie detail and some of the most vivid sensory writing I’ve read. In addition, the story takes you in one direction – until you suddenly realise it is about something else altogether. Clever and original, this impressive debut novel marks Geen as One to Watch.

 

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

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The cover of this book is lushly beautiful – which is also an accurate description of the prose spinning this story into a classic tale that wouldn’t be out of place if it turned up as one of the tales of Scheherazade. What really sold it, though, was the carnivorous horse with smart mouth…

 

The Annihilation Score – Book 6 The Laundry Files by Charles Stross

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Unlike the rest of this clever, readable series, this book is told in the viewpoint of Bob Howard’s wife, Mo. She has a bone violin as a weapon to battle the Lovecraftian monsters emerging from another dimension and threatening life on Earth as we know it. You won’t be surprised to learn that wielding such an instrument exacts a heavy cost. Stross has depicted a heartbreaking heroine who leaves a lump in my throat.

 

The House with No Rooms – Book 4 of The Detective’s Daughter series
by Lesley Thomson

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I love Thomson’s clever, layered writing that assumes her readers are capable of joining the dots and her leisurely pacing that steadily builds a creeping sense of wrongness. Stella’s quirky world view prevails and in amongst the tragedy and pain, there are welcome shafts of humour. I’ve dreamt about this book…

 

Me Before You by JoJo Moyes

mebeforeyou

This book, rightly, has garnered a huge amount of attention and I nearly didn’t read it because of the fuss. Which would have been a real shame, because the story is gripping, funny and painful and without an ounce of sentiment. I certainly didn’t think it would end the way it did.

 

An Accident of Stars – Book 1 of The Manifold Worlds series by Foz Meadows

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This portal fantasy gripped me from the first page and still hasn’t let go. I was completely caught up in the adventure, which quickly took me out of my comfort zone and captivated me. I still find myself wondering what I’d do if confronted with the same circumstances and hope that Meadows writes quickly, because I badly want to know what happens next.

 

The Fifth Season – Book 1 of the Broken Earth series by N.K. Jemisin

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I love her Inheritance series, but blogging buddy Sara Letourneau kept banging on about this one, so I got hold of it. And I’m so very glad I did… The writing is extraordinary. Jemisin takes all the rules about writing by the scruff of the neck and gives them a thorough shaking. I stayed awake to read this one, caught up with Essun’s furious grief and felt bereft once I came to the end of it.

 

Spiderlight by Adrian Tchaikovsky

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This clever, unsettling adventure takes the classic fantasy trope of the band of heroes and bounces it off the walls. The result is funny, creepy and poignant by turns – and absolutely engrossing. It also raises some tricky moral questions.

 

Spellbreaker – Book 3 of the Spellwright Trilogy by Blake Charlton

spellbreaker

This fantasy adventure vividly depicts a family where every one of them is lethally powerful such that it seriously gets in the way of their love for each other. The result is riveting and original – it has lodged itself in my brain like a burr, because if you have the power to level cities or predict your father’s death, then it’s probably going to make the inevitable family tiff somewhat tricky.

 

The Summer Goddess by Joanne Hall

thesummergoddess

I’ve always enjoyed Hall’s writing – but this particular tale of abduction and slavery tugged at my heart from the first chapter and kept on doing so throughout. Her heroine is painfully fallible and yet doggedly courageous – and the writing is always so well crafted. It’s another one that won’t leave me in peace…

 

Songs of Seraphina by Jude Houghton

songsofseraphine

This disturbing portal novel is about revenge and bloodshed – and how those that pay the price often are innocent. It grabbed me from the beginning as we learn about the three sisters and I read through the night to learn what befalls them – and I’m really hoping that Houghton is busy writing a sequel, for I want more of this savage, magical world.

 

A Natural History of DragonsBook 1 of The Memoirs of Lady Trent series
by Marie Brennan

anaturalhistoryofdragons

What’s not to love? A dogged, adventuring Victorian lady who defies convention to go adventuring to learn more about dragons in their habitat. The book is written after the style of a 19th century novel and enchanted me – happily there are more in the series and I’m going to be plunging back into this world just as soon as I can.

 

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

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This time travelling novel is set in a Government-run establishment that has the same feel I imagine Bletchley would have done during WW2 – though the attrition rate is definitely higher at St Mary’s. The time-travelling historians – or ‘disaster-magnets’ as they are described in this punchy, amusing adventure – tend to die rather a lot.

So there they are – my outstanding reads of 2016. I highly recommend each and every one of them as offering something special and unique. And if you insist on forcing me to choose only one of them, then you’re a cruel, unfeeling monster – but if I HAD to, then it would have to be N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season. The intensity of the writing, the cool premise and the way she builds on the characters has this one etched into my mind.

Sunday Post – 8th 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.

Christmas now seems a distant dream, but I’ve still been having a lovely social time as my sister has been staying for the past week. She lives in France, so it’s been brilliant catching up with her. As a result, I haven’t been online quite as much as usual – and have also been busy working on this term’s course at Northbrook, which starts on Monday.

On Tuesday I hosted my first blog tour, which was something of a milestone – I’d like to do more. On Wednesday, Mhairi came over for the day and we set our Shoot for the Moon targets together for the coming year and looked at how we’d done in 2016 – both posts I’ll be publishing in the near future. Readingwise, the start of 2017 has been mixed – I’ve read a couple of great books, but also encountered my first DNF of the year which was something of a disappointment as it doesn’t happen all that often these days. Hopefully, it will be an aberration.

This week I have read:
Martians Abroad by Carrie Vaughn
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 maneuvers 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.

I really enjoyed this interesting school-based, science fiction YA offering. The twist with this one is the protagonist and her brother come from Mars, so find Earth with its heavier gravity and profusion of life very difficult. Some of their classmates aren’t all that friendly, either – so when stuff starts happening around them, they are dangerously isolated. I like Vaughn’s writing and this one is great fun – those of you who enjoyed Janet Edwards’ Earthgirl series may also like Martians Abroad.

 

The Falconer – Book 1 of The Falconer series by Elizabeth May
She’s a stunner. Edinburgh, 1844. Eighteen-year-old Lady Aileana Kameron, the only daughter of the thefalconerMarquess of Douglas, has everything a girl could dream of: brains, charm, wealth, a title—and drop-dead beauty.
She’s a liar. But Aileana only looks the part of an aristocratic young lady. she’s leading a double life: She has a rare ability to sense the sìthíchean—the faery race obsessed with slaughtering humans—and, with the aid of a mysterious mentor, has spent the year since her mother died learning how to kill them.
She’s a murderer. Now Aileana is dedicated to slaying the fae before they take innocent lives. With her knack for inventing ingenious tools and weapons—from flying machines to detonators to lightning pistols—ruthless Aileana has one goal: Destroy the faery who destroyed her mother.
She’s a Falconer. The last in a line of female warriors born with a gift for hunting and killing the fae, Aileana is the sole hope of preventing a powerful faery population from massacring all of humanity. Suddenly, her quest is a lot more complicated. She still longs to avenge her mother’s murder—but she’ll have to save the world first.

I’ve seen recommendations for this series by various bloggers and so was delighted when Himself brought it home from the library and plonked it front of me with a command to read it. He was right – it’s a storming read. May manages to balance the rarified life of a gently bred heiress with the vicious savagery of her regular battles very effectively. I’ve now ordered the second one and am waiting eagerly for its appearance.

 

Strangers by Rosie Thomas
strangersSometimes the victims of tragedy are the ones who survive. Annie and Steve are from different worlds. She is a wife and mother, he is a wealthy executive with a stream of broken relationships in his wake. They do not know each other exists until one morning, on a shopping expedition, they becomes victims of a bomb blast, thrown together in the debris to fight for their lives. As they lie in the darkness and the rubble, the hours slowly tick by. To ward off fear and death they talk: of everything they have to live for, of their disappointments, loves, failures and their hopes. And so a bond is created that binds them deeper than family, than friends, than lovers. With such strange intimacy, such strange trust, how can they get through the future without each other?

Well this book starts with a bang. Trapped in the debris of a department store, Annie and Steve are injured and afraid. But the bomb doesn’t just snare them in a nightmare scenario – it blasts apart their former lives and leaves them to pick up the pieces. Thomas’s vivid writing really captures the desperation and pain these two endure, however I did have difficulty in believing they wouldn’t have been offered counselling and help to get through the mental trauma they suffered.

My posts last week:
Sunday Post – 1st January 2017

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Graveyard Shift – Book 10 of the Pepper Martin mysteries by Casey Daniels

BLOG TOUR – Freeks by Amanda Hocking

2016 Discovery Challenge and Tackling my TBR – December Roundup

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

Friday Faceoff – Undernearth the spreading chestnut tree… featuring Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Series I Want to Continue in 2017

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:
Edyth and Andrew kissing on top of taxis https://photolicioux.wordpress.com/2017/01/07/edythe-and-andrew-kissing-on-top-of-taxis/
There is a steady stream of lovely photos from this quirky site – and this is one of them…

Tsundoku: The Art of Not Reading https://kristentwardowski.wordpress.com/2017/01/04/tsundoku-the-art-of-not-reading/
For word nerds everywhere, but particularly those who are avid readers – and surely as we are all feverishly spending our book tokens, this is especially apt.

Caramel https://richardankers.com/2017/01/04/caramel/ Another thought-provoking micro fiction story from this insanely prolific author.

Happy Birthday Mabes! https://readlorigreer.com/2017/01/05/happy-birthday-mabes/ A poignant and beautifully written article about that most interesting and loaded of relationships – a young wife and her mother in law.

Five Fascinating Facts about The Merchant of Venice https://interestingliterature.com/2017/01/06/five-fascinating-facts-about-the-merchant-of-venice/ Once more this informative site produces another readable article that teaches me something I didn’t know about a much-loved classic.

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

Series I Want to Continue in 2017

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I’ve already blogged about the favourite series I completed during 2016 here. Today I want to talk about the series I have started and want to continue reading in 2017.

WAYFARERS SERIES BY BECKY CHAMBERS

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Somewhere within our crowded sky, a crew of wormhole builders hops from planet to planet, on their way to the job of a lifetime. To the galaxy at large, humanity is a minor species, and one patched-up construction vessel is a mere speck on the starchart. This is an everyday sort of ship, just trying to get from here to there.

This is the blurb for The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet as I’m allergic to providing spoilers for those who haven’t yet had the pleasure. If you enjoyed Firefly on TV, then you’ll probably like this one. I loved it and for some reason missed requesting A Closed and Common Orbit from NetGalley, so have promised myself the pleasure of this one in the early new year as long as I have managed to get my TBR pile down a bit more.

 

THE STEERSWOMAN SERIES BY ROSEMARY KIRSTEIN

thesteerwoman

Steerswomen, and a very few Steersmen, are members of an order dedicated to discovering and disseminating knowledge. Although they are foremost navigators of the high seas, Steerswomen are also explorers and cartographers upon land as well as sea. With one exception, they are pledged to always answer any question put to them with as truthful a response as is possible within their own limitations. However, they also require anyone of whom they ask questions to respond in the same manner, upon penalty of the Steerswomen’s ban; those under the ban do not receive answers from the steerswomen.

This is a delight – a clever, nuanced world with a confident mature woman at the height of her powers who enjoys exploring and learning. While there’s nothing wrong with the slew of coming-of-age books out there, it makes an enjoyable change to read of a protagonist who is wholly comfortable in her own skin. I have the other books on my Kindle and will have the pleasure of reading them and completing this series during 2017.

 

PLANETFALL BY EMMA NEWMAN

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Renata Ghali believed in Lee Suh-Mi’s vision of a world far beyond Earth, calling to humanity. A planet promising to reveal the truth about our place in the cosmos, untainted by overpopulation, pollution, and war. Ren believed in that vision enough to give up everything to follow Suh-Mi into the unknown. More than twenty-two years have passed since Ren and the rest of the faithful braved the starry abyss and established a colony at the base of an enigmatic alien structure where Suh-Mi has since resided, alone. All that time, Ren has worked hard as the colony’s 3-D printer engineer, creating the tools necessary for human survival in an alien environment, and harboring a devastating secret.

I loved Planetfall – it’s one of my favourite books of 2016 and yet haven’t managed to get around to reading After Atlas. So this is one I’m going to track down and read this year.

 

EARTHCENT AMBASSADOR SERIES BY E.M. FONER

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Kelly Frank is EarthCent’s top diplomat on Union Station, but her job description has always been a bit vague. When she receives a gift subscription to the dating service that’s rumored to be powered by the same benevolent artificial intelligence that runs the huge station, Kelly decides to swallow her pride and give it a shot. But as her dates go from bad to worse, she can only hope that the supposedly omniscient AI is planning a happy ending.

I was charmed by the quirkiness of Date Night on Union Station and have promised myself to tuck into more of these enjoyable science fiction novellas which are as much a comedy of manners as anything else. So I’m making a date with Union Station in 2017 to read at least a couple more – particularly when in need of some light relief.

 

THE MEMOIRS OF LADY TRENT SERIES BY MARIE BRENNAN

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Everyone knows Isabella, Lady Trent, to be the world’s preeminent dragon naturalist. Here, at last, in her own words, is the story of a pioneering spirit who risked her reputation, prospects, and her life to satisfy scientific curiosity; of how she sought true love despite her lamentable eccentricities; and of her thrilling expedition to the mountains of Vystrana, where she made discoveries that would change the world.

I recently read The Natural History of Dragons and absolutely loved it – so I’m determined to read more in 2017. A plucky Victorian lady battling convention to learn more about dragons by travelling to wild and inhospitable places – what’s not to love?

 

THE CHRONICLES OF ST MARY’S SERIES 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.

I’ve recently finished reading the first book in this time-travelling series and absolutely loved it. Taylor’s writing is punchy and fun and her protagonist Max is a delight. The plot had so many twists and turns, I cannot quite imagine where the next book will take the story, but I’m betting there’s a fair amount of mayhem and chaos in the process. A must-read series for 2017!

And there are series I plan to continue reading in 2017. What published series have you promised yourself to dive back into during the coming year?

Sunday Post – 18th December 2016

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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.

It’s been another busy week. Last week-end it was lovely to be grannying again, especially as the children helped out with decorating the house and the Christmas tree. On Monday I was up to Coulsdon to stay with my sister and brother-in-law. As well as catching up with my lovely niece and firming up arrangements for Christmas – we are all meeting up at my mother and father-in-law’s house for the Christmas festivities – I also helped with a bit of editing on some work she is doing, returning home on Wednesday evening. We are still horribly behind with our Christmas preparations – I haven’t written my cards yet. However, I have managed to catch up with writing up book reviews and a couple of extra blogs, hopefully getting a few in hand for the holiday season when I’ll be doing something other than sitting at the computer.

I’m also delighted to report that my writing mojo has returned and I’ve managed to tuck into Miranda’s Tempest, continuing with the major rewrite I started and then got stalled on. While I think it’s unlikely I’ll get it completed before Christmas, if I can at least keep the handles wound on it, I’ll be very pleased.

This week I have read:

Rebel of the Sands – Book 1 of The Rebel of the Sands trilogy by Alwyn Hamilton
rebelofthesandsShe’s more gunpowder than girl—and the fate of the desert lies in her hands. Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mystical beasts still roam the wild and barren wastes, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinni still practice their magic. But there’s nothing mystical or magical about Dustwalk, the dead-end town that Amani can’t wait to escape from, as she’s destined to wind up “wed or dead”.

There has been a real buzz about this YA desert fantasy offering, and I can see why. Hamilton tips us right into the middle of the action from the first page as Amani’s spiky first person narrative pulled me into the story and didn’t let go. It is a foot to the floor, non-stop adventure where she careens through the vividly depicted landscape that borrows much from eastern influences. It’s a delight and I’m now hoping to be able to hunt down the sequel.

 

Ever the Hunted – Book 1 of Clash of Kingdoms series by Erin Summerill
everthehuntedSeventeen year-old Britta Flannery is at ease only in the woods with her dagger and bow. She spends her days tracking criminals alongside her father, the legendary bounty hunter for the King of Malam—that is, until her father is murdered. Now outcast and alone and having no rights to her father’s land or inheritance, she seeks refuge where she feels most safe: the Ever Woods. When Britta is caught poaching by the royal guard, instead of facing the noose she is offered a deal: her freedom in exchange for her father’s killer. However, it’s not so simple. The alleged killer is none other than Cohen McKay, her father’s former apprentice. The only friend she’s ever known. The boy she once loved who broke her heart.

It was pure chance that I read two YA fantasy adventures back to back. They both featured teenage female protagonists on the run, both had secrets and issues they knew nothing about at the start of the adventure. Both had a romantic sub-plot. Both are cracking reads.
However, Britta isn’t so carelessly, gloriously reckless as Amani – she is wary and untrusting of everyone. The pace in this one isn’t quite so full-on, either, but I thoroughly enjoyed this tale set in a more traditional medieval fantasy setting. There were some pleasing plot twists in this adventure I didn’t see coming – and I certainly didn’t guess who had murdered Britta’s father.

 

Just One Damned Thing After Another – Book 1 of The Chronicles of St Mary’s by Jodi Taylor
“History is just one damned thing after another.” Behind the seemingly innocuous façade of St Mary’s, a jsutonedamnedthingdifferent 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.

This is time-travelling adventure is a joy. Funny, anarchic with a reckless sense of derring-do, this tale is told in first person viewpoint by Max as we follow her initial introduction to St Mary’s, training and early adventures. That said, the attrition rate is high and a number of folks die in this – some of whom I was really sorry to see go… I think this would make a marvellous TV series, however – not yet. There are a raft of these books out there and I want to read them all, first.

My posts last week:
Sunday Post – 11th December 2016

Review of A Natural History of Dragons – Book 1 of The Memoirs of Lady Trent series by Marie Brennan

Review of How To Train Your Parents by Pete Johnson

Friday Faceoff – Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world… featuring Undead and Unemployed – Book 2 of the Queen Betsy series by Mary Janice Davidson

2016 Discovery Challenge – November Roundup

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

A Short Analysis of T.S. Eliot’s ‘A Journey of the Magi https://interestingliterature.com/2016/12/15/a-short-analysis-of-t-s-eliots-journey-of-the-magi/ Once more this wonderful site comes up with a superb discussion about this beautiful, complicated poem on alienation and loss in amongst the Christmas story…

Great Gifts for Book Lovers https://kristentwardowski.wordpress.com/2016/12/14/gifts-for-book-lovers/ Kristen comes up with some timely ideas for the bookworm in your life…

500 Words You Should Know by Caroline Taggart https://librarystaffpicks.wordpress.com/2016/12/15/500-words-you-should-know-by-caroline-taggart/ Those lovely people at the awarding winning library site BallyroadReads have highlighted this entertaining book for the wordsmiths in your life…

The Character Evolution Files, No. 14: Aligning the Protagonist’s Character Arc with the Story’s Plot, Part 1 https://saraletourneauwriter.com/2016/12/15/plot-arc-alignment-part-1/ Sara Letourneau provides a thorough how-to article on how to ensure your character’s journey works within your plot.

Inspirational Bernard Williams’ Quotes http://logicalquotes.com/bernard-williams-quotes/ Some of these are gems – and if you enjoy reading strong, interesting quotes by a range of folks, then swing by this enjoyable site.

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

The This is My Genre Tell Me Yours Book Tag

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I was nominated for this lovely book tag by Drew from The Tattooed Book Geek, who writes wonderful, passionate reviews about his favourite genre, fantasy. Thank you, Drew! Do drop by and check out his site – it’s worth it.

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1. What’s your favourite genre?
Science fiction, particularly at the more character-led end of the genre. Though it is a very broad church and that is part of the glory of it.

2. Who’s your favourite author?
Erg! Oh nooo… I hate having to choose ONLY one. Hm. I think it’s… Nope. Can’t do it, sorry. There cannot be only one! C.J. Cherryh – because she wrote the defining space opera adventure that blew me away. Kage Baker for her amazing Company novels and Lois McMaster Bujold for the Miles Vorkosigan series. There’s more… there’s so MANY more!

3. What is it about the genre that keeps pulling you back?
To be honest, I’m not really sure. I mostly read and enjoy fantasy, but when I do settle down with a thumping good science fiction read, it just has me buzzing with excitement in a way that nothing else does. There is the sense of adventure and excitement as I open the cover – it’s a genre that pushes ideas and concepts right to the limits with the likes of cyberpunk, so I never moonquite know where I’ll end up.

However, I also think it is the prospect of us leaving the planet and exploring space that really ticks all my boxes. As a young child, I grew up taking it for granted that by the time I was adult, we would already have a presence on the Moon and be working towards getting to Mars. So reading about a future where we have achieved these goals helps alleviate my sense of betrayal that humanity’s continuing nomadic quest was stifled thanks to politicians with the mental horizon of an ant.

4. What’s the book that started your love for your genre?
heavytimeC.J. Cherryh’s Heavy Time. It is an amazing read – about a couple of asteroid miners who discover a ship tumbling through space and secure it for salvage, when they find a half-mad crew member, Paul Dekker, tumbling about inside it. The only survivor… Her writing is years ahead of its time, with an immersive first person viewpoint that has the tension pinging off the page. I dreamt about that book and went looking for other reads like it. I don’t often find them, but when I do, I’m caught between wanting the book to last and last as it’s just SO MUCH FUN reading it. And needing to get to the end TO FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENS. And when I do finish such a book, I ache at having to leave the world… While this occasionally occurs with enjoyable fantasy reads, it happens far more frequently with science fiction books.

5. If you had to recommend at least one book from your favourite genre to a non-reader/someone looking to start reading that genre, what book would you choose and why?
There’s four books I’d like to recommend – all very different. The first would be Adrian childrenoftimeTchaikovsky’s award-winning Children of Time, which I loved. It takes the basic tropes around space opera and turns them on their head, while producing a page-turning story full of incident and unintended consequences.

Earthgirl

 

Another is far more a straightforward adventure tale – the excellent Earth Girl by Janet Edwards, which has Earth as a relative backwater where due to a genetic condition, a small number of people cannot emigrate off the planet and are stranded here.

 

The Many Selves of Katherine North by Emma Geen takes the idea of shape-manyselvesofkatherineshifting and turns it into a scientific breakthrough and this riveting, beautifully written book explores the consequences of what might happen to those who invade the consciousness of other animals.

The finthemartianal book would be The Martian by Andy Weir which is a near future adventure – think of Robinson Crusoe set in space and stranded on Mars and you have an idea of the book, which charts Mark’s constant struggle for survival as he battles against the odds to survive until help arrives.

 

 

 

6. Why do you read?
I can’t recall a time when I couldn’t read. I read hungrily all through my childhood which was at times very difficult and books provided my consolation and escape. Fortunately my grandparents were very encouraging and provided me with plenty of reading matter.

The only time I didn’t read was when my children were young – I didn’t dare pick up a book because I knew only too well that they could be screaming in the cot, or drowning in the bath and I simply wouldn’t hear them. So I didn’t read a single book for seven years, other than children’s books. It was the biggest sacrifice I made as a mother. Now, I live with another avid reader and we often have days when we turn off the TV, curl up in the lounge together and read, while our favourite music is playing… bliss!

My nominations for the This is My Genre  Tell Me Yours Book Tag

Sara Letourneau – Sara Letourneau’s Official Website and Blog

Wendy – Musings of a Bookish Kitty

Kristen Twardowski – A Writer’s Workshop

You may or may not choose to take part in this one. I’ve selected all three of you because you are interesting passionate bloggers with a keen interest in all things bookish and I’d love to hear your answers:). Anyone else out there who’d love to have a go – please join in!

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook The Ballad of Elva and Chester: Or: Mostly Their Fault by Adrian Archangelo

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I came across this book on someone’s book blog (really sorry I cannot recall exactly who) and immediately checked out to see if it was available on NetGalley as I loved the premise. It was – so I requested and acquired it. Yippee!

theballadofelvaElva & Chester are space aliens who appear to be human and have been here on earth since the year 1100, with the goal of helping humanity develop more empathy and compassion. (The rest of the beings in the galaxy don’t want us flying around out there until we do.) The pair have no human habits to contend with, but they are extraordinarily responsive to chocolate and hold it in special regard. Although they mean well for us, they find human behavior baffling, and continually see their plans twisted by human responses. Consequently, nearly everything wrong on this planet over the past thousand years was caused by one of their debacles.

And that’s most of the blurb. I was a tad taken aback when I was initially confronted with a major info-dump right at the beginning of the novel all in ‘tell’ mode and nearly consigned it to the DNF pile. However, I persevered and was glad I did, as when the story finally got going, it was quirky and enjoyable. Elva and Chester are tasked with making humanity fit to mingle with the wider alien community, who want nothing to do with them until they are more compassionate, enlightened and peaceful. This is book catalogues their long-running attempts to convert human beings into becoming more benign through the critical lens of a visiting group who have come to judge their efforts.

However, I became increasingly aware that while this is a pleasant read and mildly enjoyable, I would have been a whole lot more engaged and amused if I hadn’t known the punchline right at the beginning of the book. If it had been flagged as an alien visitation attempting to influence humans by mind control – and as the plot progressed we’d begin to see through Elva and Chester’s farcical attempts that this is, in fact, a comedy of errors rather than some dastardly alien plot, it would have been more effective.

The ending was something of a surprise, which I enjoyed but I was conscious from about a third of the way through that I knew far too much about this book’s ultimate punchline. It is also a real pity that dreadful info-dump at the beginning of the book wasn’t edited out. All the information in there was mostly revealed throughout the book – I would have liked the judges to have had separate personalities and characters, for instance. It would certainly have given the ending more of an impact.

If you are looking for an amusing, lightweight read, then by all means have a go. But the pity of it is, with sharper editing and a less revealing blurb, this book could really have packed a punch.
7/10

Sunday Post – 6th November 2016

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

bristolcon2016It’s been another hectic week. At the start of the week, I was still recovering from the awesome Bristolcon 2016. Mhairi and I travelled up on the train and once more were enveloped in the warmth of The Friendly Con. It was great to catch up with regulars, though there were far too many people I only got to exchange quick greetings with – the likes of Justin Newland, Sophie E. Tallis, Sammy Smith and Jo Hall. I’m sure there are others I’ve missed out, and apologies for the omission. I had the huge pleasure of meeting Rosie Oliver, who I regularly chat with on my blog. She was one of the participants in the excellent ‘Uncanny Valleys of the Mind’ panel about the possibility of sentient robots. The quality of this discussion was superb with moderator Pete Sutton, Rosie, Kevlin Henney, Claire Carter and guest of honour Ken MacLeod.

Other enjoyable panels included ‘SF & F on the Margins’, which discussed the joys of the small presses, bristolcon1who are providing an increasingly vital role during this time when the larger traditional publishers are finding it tough. ‘The Regiment of Monsters’ panel investigated the contention that too much fantasy lacks diversity and is still stuck in the ‘boys own’ adventures for and about white males. While the panel agreed there was still a preponderance of such fantasy around, there are increasing examples of alternatives to the staple of the plucky group battling overwhelming evil in a quasi-medieval setting. And there was also the delightfully whacky ‘Storming the Castle’ panel moderated by John Baverstock with tyrants (panellists) Ade Couper, Mhairi Simpson, Jacey Bedford and Dom Dulley sporting enough to provide daft ways in which to defend their castles from members of the audience on a dice throw… After that we had no option but to retreat to the bar, where I had one of the best evenings ever. Meeting another blogging friend, Leona was a delight, along with authors Mark Lawrence, R.B. Watkinson, T.O. Munro and G.R. Matthews and the awesome Kitvaria Sarene and Marielle (thank you for those yummy Dutch cookies, which had me falling off the sugar-free wagon – but I can’t be good ALL the time). By the time Mhairi and I staggered back to our hotel room around 2 am, my sides were aching with so much laughing. Thank you so much to everyone who contributed to a fabulous time – I’m grinning as I type at the memory…

Coming back to earth has been something of an effort, though I haven’t had too much time to sit around twiddling my fingers as I was back to teaching again on Monday and Tuesday and on Wednesday Mhairi and I got together for a writing day. On Thursday I was in London for a training day for the CoPE syllabus that Tim is starting to work towards with Sally. We’re now both excited and relieved that we finally have a clear path whereby his exceptional abilities can be formally recognised with qualifications that will help him become an independent adult with a fulfilling career. This week-end I’m grannying.

This week I have read:
Frontier – an Epsilon Sector novella by Janet Edwards
Life on a frontier farming planet in the twenty-eighth century has a few complications. The imported frontierEarth 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.

This is a characteristically engrossing read, full of Edwards’ bouncy prose that pulled me into the story which I read in one greedy gulp and surfaced feeling very happy… They ought to bottle her writing and make it available on the NHS.

Songs of Seraphina by Jude Houghton
songsofseraphineSome battles bleed so much, and for so long, that the earth never truly forgets their dead. Some battles are born of oppression, and some of greed, and some simply because it was written in the stars. Three sisters—Charlemagne, Cairo and Pendragon Agonistes—are sent from America to England to live with their eccentric grandparents after their mother disappears and their father falls to pieces. But before the girls have time to find their feet, Charlemagne is married off to a dead man, Penny takes a nap and wakes up as a boy, and Cairo is swept into a dangerous romance with a man who wants her for more than her considerable charm. With the girls wrapped up in a conflict they barely understand, they don’t notice that their grandmother is transforming, or that the two demigod assassins who took their mother are now coming for them—if one of them can get over his crisis of conscience.

I realised Jude Houghton was One to Watch when I read his stormingly good science fiction novel Autonomy earlier this year – but this amazing take on epic fantasy has very much confirmed his wonderful talent. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a sequel – or I might stamp my feet and DEMAND one.

The Hanging Tree – Book 6 of The Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch
The Hanging Tree was the Tyburn gallows which stood where Marble Arch stands today. Oxford Street thehangingtreewas the last trip of the condemned. Some things don’t change. The place has a bloody and haunted legacy and now blood has returned to the empty Mayfair mansions of the world’s super-rich. And blood mixed with magic is a job for Peter Grant, who is back as are Nightingale et al. at the Folly and the various river gods, ghosts and spirits who attach themselves to England’s last wizard and the Met’s reluctant investigator of all things supernatural.

This sparky, London-based urban fantasy has always had a special place in my heart since I read the first one – and like the rest of his fans, I’ve been waiting very patiently for this book.

My posts last week:
*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Imlen Brat by Sarah Avery

Teaser Tuesday – featuring Songs of Seraphina by Jude Houghton

Waiting on Wednesday – featuring The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Return to the Secret Garden by Holly Webb

Friday Faceoff – Nomad is a wanderer… featuring The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North

Shoot for the Moon Challenge 2016 – October roundup

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:
#SPFBO Final Round https://lynns-books.com/2016/11/05/spfbo-final-round/ For those of you who don’t know the acronym stands for Self Published Fantasy Blog Off, which is organised by best-selling author Mark Lawrence, where a group of stalwart book bloggers volunteer to take a stack of self published fantasy novels – this year it was 30 each – and whittle it down to a single entry to be forwarded to this final list.

All My Halloweens http://melfka.com/archives/1994 A delightful article by Joanna Maciejewska on her recollections of Halloween celebrations throughout her life so far – and given she’s something of a traveller, it also takes us to a number of different countries…

The This Is My Genre Tell Me Yours Book Tag https://thetattooedbookgeek.wordpress.com/2016/10/30/the-this-is-my-genre-tell-me-yours-book-tag/ Many thanks to Drew for including me in this particular tag. I’m really looking forward to having a go – but as he threw it open to everyone who likes reading, I thought I’d let others have the pleasure of taking part, too.

9 Tips for Novice Spelunkers and Cave Exploration https://roamwildandfree.com/2016/11/01/9-tips-for-novice-spelunkers-and-cave-exploration/ And this, people, is one of the reasons I love the blogging community so much. I can sit at my computer and learn about places and situations I’ll never encounter from the wonderful people who do.

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