Tag Archives: science fiction

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Netgalley arc Artemis by Andy Weir

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I loved The Martian and was delighted when I realised that Andy Weir had another book in the works and thrilled when I managed to obtain a Netgalley arc for it. Question is – does Artemis live up to Weir’s stunning debut?

Jazz Bashara is a criminal. Well, sort of. Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is tough if you’re not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you’ve got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers the rent. Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime, with a reward too lucrative to turn down. But pulling off the impossible is just the start of her problems, as she learns that she’s stepped square into a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself—and that now, her only chance at survival lies in a gambit even riskier than the first.

The short answer is yes. Oh yes – Artemis has yet another memorably enjoyable protagonist every bit as ingenious and determined as Mark Watney – Jazz is a street-wise moon-girl who plays the odds. She ekes out a precarious living by a series of shady deals under the cover of her lowly job as porter as she needs more money. Lots more money. And it is that need that drives her to make a deal against her better judgement… a deal that trips over into something a whole lot more serious. I’m aware some readers have had a problem with her lack of judgement and maturity, but I feel her poor impulse control is entirely realistic and when we learn the whole story of what went wrong between her and her father, there is also a valid explanation.

Like The Martian, we are charmed into really caring what happens to this lively, irreverent protagonist as she takes us into her confidence and tells us how the domes work, how the society is structured and about her tempestuous relationship with her father. So when it all goes really wrong, we are with her every step of the way, hoping she will prevail. As Weir steadily ups the stakes and increases the pressure – I found this one almost impossible to put down.

Despite the strong character-led nature of the story, there are still plenty of details about life on the Moon for hard science fiction fans. We learn about how the domes were constructed, who initially settled this first moon settlement and what currently powers the economy – all without compromising the pace or the narrative tension. It’s a neat trick to pull off and far harder to achieve than Weir makes it look. If all these geeky details tend to slide past you, my firm advice would be not to skim too much – because some of this stuff has a major impact on the story progression.

So after setting up a precarious situation where our plucky heroine finds herself on the sharp end of the trickiest conundrum – does Weir satisfactorily wrap up the story? Absolutely. We get a gripping conclusion to this plotline, while there are also some dangling tendrils that would give Weir the opportunity to revisit Artemis with the surviving characters. I would love to see him do so. Highly recommended.
10/10

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Teaser Tuesday – 31st October, 2017

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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:

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang

76% Her name was Nancy, and even though Clay was disruptive, she like me because the angel, Micah, had also come through her school, so it was obvious I wasn’t the problem. “How do you do it?” she asked the day Clay jumped on his desk and broke it. “How do you live with two boys? One is enough to drive me crazy.”

“I grew up with four sisters,” I said. “I’d take a fraternity over a sorority any day.”.

BLURB: Orphaned, raised by wolves, and the proud owner of a horned pig named Merlin, Weylyn Grey knew he wasn’t like other people. But when he single-handedly stopped that tornado on a stormy Christmas day in Oklahoma, he realized just how different he actually was.

Whatever I thought this book would be – it isn’t. Set in the US in a contemporary setting it depicts someone with paranormal superpowers. But it is as far away from a superhero adventure as you can possibly get. Beautifully written, the story circles around Weylyn’s life mostly told by the people he comes into contact with and I’m loving it.

 

ANNDDD…

Mello & June It’s a Book Thang are hosting the final stop of the blog tour for Running Out of Space

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Select by Marit Wiesenberg

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I was caught by the intriguing premise and loved the cover, so requested this one as I’m always a sucker for science fiction scenarios.

Coming from a race of highly-evolved humans, Julia Jaynes has the perfect life. The perfect family. The perfect destiny. But there’s something rotten beneath the surface—dangerous secrets her father is keeping; abilities she was never meant to have; and an elite society of people determined to keep their talents hidden and who care nothing for the rest of humanity.

I really like Wiesenberg’s writing style – the punchy first person point of view drew me in and kept the pages turning as we see this mysterious mega-rich family from Julia’s perspective. I especially enjoyed the fact that as in the better first person narratives, Julia is busy telling us one thing, while something quite different is unfolding in front of our eyes. She tells us that those with the greatest abilities are especially valued in their community – and then we realise that she and a group of highly talented boys have been sidelined and more or less forbidden to use their prodigious skills. Julie emphasises and indeed, tries to carry out the firm instruction not to draw attention to herself. But we also learn that her father has achieved celebrity status by dint of having accrued huge wealth, having film-star looks and refusing to give any interviews to the press. As the charismatic leader of their community, he is very much about ‘do as I say, not as I do’.

I loved the incident at the swimming pool, which beautifully illustrated the tension between what Julia tries to do and the sheer impossibility of those instructions. Rich, beautiful and very entitled, Julia is nonetheless a highly sympathetic protagonist, who I cared about especially when it became obvious she is being set up to fail. While I wasn’t particularly invested in the romance, it felt convincing and I enjoyed the game-changing scene near the end that provided the final reveal. And the very final page has one more twist that leaves an interesting plot point dangling and ready for the next book.

Overall, this is a fast, enjoyable read with plenty of tension and an appealing protagonist. Recommended for fans of school-based stories with a strong romance. While I obtained the arc of Select from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Sweet Dreams by Tricia Sullivan

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I’m a real fan of Sullivan’s writing – see my reviews of Occupy Me, Lightborn and Sound Mind. She is a highly talented writer with a penchant for pushing the envelope with her fiction in a way that I love. So I was delighted to see this offering on Netgalley.

Charlie is a dreamhacker, able to enter your dreams and mould their direction. Forget that recurring nightmare about being naked at an exam – Charlie will step in to your dream, bring you a dressing gown and give you the answers. As far as she knows, she’s the only person who can do this. Unfortunately, her power comes with one drawback – Charlie also has narcolepsy, and may fall asleep at the most inopportune moment. But in London 2022, her skill is in demand – until it all starts to go horribly wrong…

As you can see, this is set in the very near future where virtual reality is being taken into some disturbing areas… I happen to know someone who suffers from narcolepsy – where the sufferer will fall fast asleep anywhere at any time, particularly when stressed. It doesn’t take much imagination to realise that this sleep disorder drives a tank through any attempt to lead a normal life. Charlie’s ability to hack dreams starts after her drugs trial with BigSky, when she also starts to suffer from narcolepsy, lose her job and a lot of her hair through stress. Unfortunately, due to the small print on the contract she signed when she took part in the trial, she has no recourse to any form of compensation. So she also ends up homeless. However, she is lucky to have a loyal friend in Shandy and find herself living as a companion to a cranky old lady in a wheelchair, known as O, by cooking and cleaning her pigeons for her. O is also very supportive of her new job as a dreamhacker.

I very much enjoyed Charlie’s character. She could so easily have moaned her way through the novel and although she is often depressed and undermined by her misfortunes, she is also feisty, with a nice line in sardonic humour. I also liked her impulsiveness and occasional lapse of judgement – it can be rather wearing to read of a protagonist who invariably takes the sensible option.

As for the crime aspect – it was really creepy to experience the way the Creeper infiltrated Charlie’s dreams and as I hadn’t read the rather chatty blurb, which I’ve tweaked, I hadn’t realised there was a suspicious death. Unravelling the murder mystery was enjoyable with plenty of suspects and though I guessed part of it, I didn’t appreciate the final part of the puzzle. This was a thoroughly enjoyable, engrossing read and recommended for fans of near future whodunits. While I obtained the arc of Sweet Dreams from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
9/10

Review of The Cold – Book 5 of the Star Wars: Adventures in Wild Space series by Cavan Scott

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Oscar and I have thoroughly enjoyed this series – the last book particularly captured the menace of being trapped in deep space on a ship with a number of really creepy little creatures. So I wondered whether this fifth book in the series would be able to sustain the narrative drive that has been building in this overarching adventure as the Graf children continue to desperately seek their parents.

Milo and Lina Graf have picked up the trail of their kidnapped parents–but an ambush in the depths of Wild Space leaves them stranded on a desolate ice planet. With an old enemy out for revenge, can they survive THE COLD?

Once again, the children are split up. Lina is left stranded on a freezing planet without the necessary equipment to survive the sub-zero temperatures for any length of time, while Milo is trapped on a very battered Whisper Bird which has serious problems of its own… I really like the fact that both children grieve for their lost parents – and at one stage, Milo is afraid that his only memories are encapsulated in the holos and pictures of his parents, as he feels his own recollections are fading. It’s a nice touch and certainly helped me to rebond with both young protagonists near the start of this challenging adventure.

I also like the fact that their nemesis surfaces once again. Captain Korda, who had snatched their parents and forced the children to flee as he continues to look for them, resurfaces in this particular storyline. He reminds us all over again just what a truly unpleasant character he is – and near the end of the book there is yet another twist involving him that increases the stakes for Lina and Milo.

The Cold and the previous adventure, The Dark, have been gritty adventures, with plenty of tension and danger such that both Oscar and I read longer than we’d intended to find out what happens next. We have chatted about the storyline and wondered what we would do in those circumstances – and agreed that we, too, would probably have a cry just then… In amongst the discomfort and danger, there are also shafts of humour. This is chiefly provided by their trusty robot, CR8-8R, or Crater, as they’ve nicknamed him, who has a strong resemblance to C-3PO in his fussiness and irritability when in danger. He also loathes Milo’s lizard-monkey pet, Morq, whose mission is to tease him, providing some much-needed moments of light relief.

Overall, I am very impressed with the strong storyline, sympathetic characterisation of the two lost children and narrative tension, so it’s a real shame that for the second book in the row there are a couple of mistakes. The wrong word in the wrong place in a book designed for newly independent readers is far more than merely an irritating error – it undermines their confidence in the printed word and has them wondering if this is yet another mistake, or whether this new word combination they haven’t encountered before is really intended. So I’m docking a point for it. I understand that times are hard and editing is expensive – but if you as a publisher decide to release a series for young readers, then you should ensure your editing standards are up to it.
8/10

Teaser Tuesday – 22th August, 2017

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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:

Death Shall Come: A Country House Murder Mystery – Book 4 of the Ishmael Jones series by Simon R. Green

43% We made our way quickly back to the drawing room, keeping a watchful eye on evey closed door and sudden side turning. The heavy hush seemed to swallow up the sound of our footsteps. It felt like walking through the depths of a forest at midnight while some predator watched from the darkest part of the woods. There was no walking mummy. I knew that, I just wasn’t sure I believed it.

BLURB: Death shall come on swift wings to whoever desecrates this tomb …

Ishmael Jones and his partner Penny have been summoned to remote Cardavan House, home of the world’s largest private collection of Ancient Egyptian artefacts, for the unveiling of George Cardavan’s latest acquisition: a bone fide Egyptian mummy.

When a bloodstained body is discovered beside the empty sarcophagus, Ishmael is dismissive of the theory that the mummy’s curse is to blame. Instead he sets out to uncover the human killer responsible. But how can Ishmael explain the strange, shuffling footsteps that creep along the corridors? Who is playing games with them … and why?

I have read a run of sci fi/fantasy murder mysteries recently – and they have all been a blast. This one is no exception. I enjoy Ishmael’s quirky character – and there is a strong reason for his different take on everything around him. So far this is a classic locked-room mystery with a rich, powerful family who are all very grumpy at what is happening in their very isolated rather creepy house – what fun!

Discovery Challenge 2017 and Tackling My TBR – July Roundup

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After reading Jo Hall’s post on the problems women authors have with getting discovered, for the past two years I’ve been taking part in the challenge to read and review at least twenty-four books by female authors each year that were previously unknown to me. During July, I read three books towards my 2017 Discovery Challenge, which brings my annual number of books written by women writers I hadn’t read before to twenty-two. They are:

Slouch Witch – Book 1 of The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Magic series by Helen Harper
Let’s get one thing straight – Ivy Wilde is not a heroine. In fact, she’s probably the last witch in the world who you’d call if you needed a magical helping hand, regardless of her actual abilities. If it were down to Ivy, she’d spend all day every day on her sofa where she could watch TV, munch junk food and talk to her feline familiar to her heart’s content. However, when a bureaucratic disaster ends up with Ivy as the victim of a case of mistaken identity, she’s yanked very unwillingly into Arcane Branch, the investigative department of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Her problems are quadrupled when a valuable object is stolen right from under the Order’s noses. It doesn’t exactly help that she’s been magically bound to Adeptus Exemptus Raphael Winter. He might have piercing sapphire eyes and a body which a cover model would be proud of but, as far as Ivy’s concerned, he’s a walking advertisement for the joyless perils of too much witch-work. And if he makes her go to the gym again, she’s definitely going to turn him into a frog.
I loved this one – it’s such a refreshing change to meet a protagonist who would far rather slump on the sofa and watch something on the TV than run around getting involved in magical adventures. Sharp and funny, I found this one difficult to put down. See my review here.

 

The Stargazer’s Embassy by Eleanor Lerman
The Stargazer’s Embassy explores the frightening phenomenon of alien abduction from a different point of view: in this story, it is the aliens who seem fearful of Julia Glazer, the woman they are desperately trying to make contact with.
Julia is the edgy protagonist who immediately gripped me and pulled me into the start of this one, which pings off the page with tension as we begin to get to know her. The tale slowly unspools as we learn her backstory and why she is constantly alert. Lerman’s depiction of a damaged character whose trust was destroyed during her childhood is very effective. See my review here.

 

Crash Land on Kurai – Book 1 of The Hikoboshi series by S.J. Pajonas
Crash Land on Kurai is the first book in the Hikoboshi series, an action adventure, space opera series that explores the worlds settled by the Japanese who fled Earth a century ago. Culture, history, technology, and swords clash in a fast-paced future society on the brink of war. Yumi Minamoto has the shortest fuse on the ship. She’s just whipped a bully and been confined to quarters, but she’s not staying there. A disgraced journalist trying to clear her name, her job is to document the mission to the Hikoboshi system, and she’s determined to get it right, despite all the trouble she causes. But when unknown vessels fire on their ship, and Yumi’s life pod crash lands on a dying moon, she’s separated from her family and friends, and her mission falls to pieces. Now she must navigate the unfamiliar and deadly terrain, deal with a society she doesn’t understand, and try to stay alive until rescue comes… if it ever does.
Yumi is an interesting protagonist – from a powerful and influential family, she is clearly the cuckoo in the nest. Constantly in trouble with the authorities, I liked the fact that when she says at the start of the story that she is a pain in the neck with an attitude and a knack for rubbing folks up the wrong way – she means it. See my review here.

I also managed to clear two books from my TBR pile. They are:

One Fell Sweep – Book 3 of The Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews
Gertrude Hunt, the nicest Bed and Breakfast in Red Deer, Texas, is glad to have you. We cater to particular kind of guests, the ones most people don’t know about. The older lady sipping her Mello Yello is called Caldenia, although she prefers Your Grace. She has a sizable bounty on her head, so if you hear kinetic or laser fire, try not to stand close to the target. Our chef is a Quillonian. The claws are a little unsettling, but he is a consummate professional and truly is the best chef in the Galaxy. If you see a dark shadow in the orchard late at night, don’t worry. Someone is patrolling the grounds. Do beware of our dog. Your safety and comfort is our first priority. The inn and your host, Dina Demille, will defend you at all costs. We ask only that you mind other guests and conduct yourself in a polite manner.
Dina has proved herself to be resourceful and powerful – particularly when in her magical inn, as evidenced by the last eventful adventure in Sweep in Peace – see my review here. So the trick is to produce a scenario where she is under threat right in the heart of her stronghold – what about when a smelly, ramshackle alien lurches onto the property pleading for sanctuary? What if this desperate creature is being pursued by a horde of fanatical aliens who believe their path to everlasting life and glory is to run down the first species, the Hiru, until they are extinct? And they will stop at nothing to get to them… Review to follow.

Slouch Witch – Book 1 of The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Magic series by Helen Harper
See above

This means I’ve managed to clear thirty-four books from my teetering TBR pile so far this year. Have you read any of the above books? If so, what did you think? Are there any challenges you are undertaking – I’d love to hear how it’s going.

Sunday Post – 30th July 2017

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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.

Now we are into the summer holidays, I am in major grannying mode as Oscar has spent the week with us. Last Monday morning I attended a meeting about Tim, so Oscar spent the morning with his aunty and we wandered down to the beach afterwards. In the afternoon, so we broke out the little plastic kite we found in the back of a cupboard and took it back down to the beach once John got back from work and went kite flying. Oscar loved it, so we were back there on Tuesday morning and phoned up to get my sister to join us – she’s now a firm favourite with Oscar. On Wednesday it poured with rain – but that was okay because Oscar, my sister and me went to watch Despicable Me III at Chichester. We all thoroughly enjoyed it – Oscar ticked us both off for laughing too loudly…

On Thursday, J’s parents came down for the day, so we all went out for lunch at the Harbour Lights café, where there are lovely views of the River Arun and during the meal Oscar was entertained watching children having yachting lessons on the river. In the afternoon, they took J’s new stunt kite out for a spin – but it broke, so the three boys, J, his father and Oscar spent the rest of the afternoon fixing it, which seemed to be almost as much fun as flying it, while his mother and I had a good old natter. On Friday, Oscar and I made his vegan pizza and a batch of banana bread in readiness for our trip to the Lego BrickLive exhibition yesterday at the ExCel exhibition centre. I was a bit worried about the journey – it took four changes of train/underground to get us there, so J came along, too. He carried all the food and took charge of the bags while Oscar and I roamed around the huge area, which helped enormously. Oscar loved it and we both had great fun – though he decided the brick pits full of Lego pieces were far too knobbly to sit in. Our favourite area was the Kingdom where we helped to build a huge castle and he also loved the Fan zone where there some fantastic models on display. Today we’re taking it easy…

This week I have read:

The Burning Page – Book 3 of The Invisible Library series by Genevieve Cogman

Librarian spy Irene has professional standards to maintain. Standards that absolutely do not include making hasty, unplanned escapes through a burning besieged building. But when the gateway back to your headquarters dramatically malfunctions, one must improvise. And after fleeing a version of Revolutionary France astride a dragon (also known as her assistant, Kai), Irene soon discovers she’s not the only one affected. Gates back to the Library are malfunctioning across a multitude of worlds, creating general havoc. She and Kai are tasked with a mission to St Petersburg’s Winter Palace, to retrieve a book which will help restore order.
Once again, Cogman whisks us up into her amazing worlds alongside Irene and Kai to face another full-on adventure where they get to save the world. Again. I loved it and am now very much looking forward to reading the next slice of the adventure – highly recommended.

The Cold – Book 5 of the Star Wars: Adventures in Wild Space series by Scott Cavan
Milo and Lina Graf have picked up the trail of their kidnapped parents–but an ambush in the depths of Wild Space leaves them stranded on a desolate ice planet. With an old enemy out for revenge, can they survive THE COLD?
Once again, I was impressed by just how well told this ongoing adventure is – and how genuinely exciting and scary the antagonists are. This time, they have to deal with the bitter cold and the prospect of a watery death. Review to follow.

 

 

Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory
The Telemachus family is known for performing inexplicable feats on talk shows and late-night television. Teddy, a master conman, heads up a clan who possess gifts he only fakes: there’s Maureen, who can astral project; Irene, the human lie detector; Frankie, gifted with telekinesis; and Buddy, the clairvoyant. But when, one night, the magic fails to materialize, the family withdraws to Chicago where they live in shame for years. Until: As they find themselves facing a troika of threats (CIA, mafia, unrelenting skeptic), Matty, grandson of the family patriarch, discovers a bit of the old Telemachus magic in himself. Now, they must put past obstacles behind them and unite like never before.
A number of my fellow book bloggers were enthusiastic about this offering – so I was delighted when I saw it was still available on Netgalley. It took me a while to get into this one, but I was completely won over by the end, which was particularly impressive. Review to follow.

Crash Land on Kurai – Book 1 of the Hikoboshi series by S.J. Pajonas
Crash Land on Kurai is the first book in the Hikoboshi series, an action adventure, space opera series that explores the worlds settled by the Japanese who fled Earth a century ago. Culture, history, technology, and swords clash in a fast-paced future society on the brink of war.

Yumi Minamoto has the shortest fuse on the ship. She’s just whipped a bully and been confined to quarters, but she’s not staying there. A disgraced journalist trying to clear her name, her job is to document the mission to the Hikoboshi system, and she’s determined to get it right, despite all the trouble she causes. But when unknown vessels fire on their ship, and Yumi’s life pod crash lands on a dying moon, she’s separated from her family and friends, and her mission falls to pieces. Now she must navigate the unfamiliar and deadly terrain, deal with a society she doesn’t understand, and try to stay alive until rescue comes… if it ever does.
I read Lola’s fabulous review of this book and immediately zipped across to get hold of it. I really enjoyed reading this one – the way the culture has morphed under the pressures of a hostile environment and warring factions is both realistic and fascinating. Review to follow.

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 23rd July 2017

Review of Chocolate Chocolate Moons by Jackie Kingon

Teaser Tuesday featuring Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory

Review of Sweep in Peace – Book 2 of The Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews

Review of Hag-Seed: The Tempest Retold by Margaret Atwood

Friday Face-off – The first cut is the deepest… featuring Beguilement – Book 1 of The Sharing Knife series by Lois McMaster Bujold

Series I Have Continued or Completed in 2017 – Part 1

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

10 of the Best Poems about Stars https://interestingliterature.com/2017/07/28/10-of-the-best-poems-about-stars/ A lovely selection here…

Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Otherworldly Textures and the Patina of Decay (the SF art of Philippe Jean) https://sciencefictionruminations.com/2017/07/27/adventures-in-science-fiction-cover-art-otherworldly-textures-and-the-patina-of-decay-the-sf-art-of-philippe-jean/ Joachim always has something interesting to offer on this fascinating and information site – but I particularly enjoyed this article

Science Fiction, Horror & More – Why Speculative Fiction Matters http://authorkristenlamb.com/2017/07/science-fiction-horror-more-why-speculative-fiction-matters/ As a confirmed fan of speculative fiction, I was interested to see what Kristen Lamb had to say on the subject, as she’s always worth reading…

5 New Playscripts to Look Out For https://librarystaffpicks.wordpress.com/2017/07/26/5-new-playscripts-to-watch-out-for/ Yet another informative article by this award-winning library site.

Bladdered or Shitfaced? The gentle art of word choice and the bogglement of page-proofing https://jaceybedford.wordpress.com/2017/07/25/bladdered-or-shitfaced-the-gentle-art-of-word-choice-and-the-bogglement-of-page-proofing/ Talented author Jacey Bedford sets out the trials of editing in this entertaining article.

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

Series I Have Continued or Completed in 2017 – Part 1

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Over the past year, I’ve becoming increasingly conscious that I’ve getting into the habit of plunging into a series with a book that has caught my eye and simply not getting any further. Given my go-to genres heavily feature series books, which are always part of a longer narrative, this is a habit I’d like to break. So this year, I’ve decided to make myself more accountable by recording my progress with series that I have either completed, or brought right up to date – hence this post now that we’re more than halfway through this year.

The Tide Dragons duology by Sarah Ash
The Flood Dragon’s Sacrifice and Emperor of the Fireflies
This delightful fantasy series is strongly influenced by Japanese mythology and culture, so as well as the wonderful dragons of the title, there are kitsume and demons, emperors and generals and a formidable goddess all weaving through this richly textured world. I loved it and Emperor of the Fireflies is one of my outstanding books of the year so far.

 

The Wayfarers by Becky Chambers
The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet and A Closed and Common Orbit
This science fiction space opera series made a big impact with the hit debut book which had a real vibe of the hit TV show Firefly as an ensemble piece, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The second book featured one of the ship’s crew and a waif who needed refuge and while it is set in the same world as the first book, you don’t need to have read it to appreciate what is going on. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed these two books and am keen to discover where Chambers next takes this series.

 

The Witchlands by Susan Dennard
Truthwitch and Windwitch
This epic fantasy initially features two young witches, Safi and Iseult, who manage to get themselves into an almighty scrape at the start of the first book, entangling them in a major plot. I like the fact that their friendship is one of the main emotional drivers throughout the story so far and that the magical system is structured with clear rules and involves a high price from magic-users. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for the third book, Bloodwitch, due to come out next year.

 

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
Rebel of the Sands and Traitor to the Throne
I love this sand and sorcery adventure! Hamilton’s punchy writing style and vivid scene setting means both of these books have stayed with me as memorably enjoyable, exciting reads and I’m very much looking forward to the next book, which will hopefully arrive next year.

 

 

Echoes of the Fall by Adrian Tchaikovsky
The Tiger and the Wolf and The Bear and the Serpent
This epic fantasy adventure takes place in a pre-agrarian world where clans divide depending on what animal they shape-shift into. Both books are full of incident and tension, along with splashes of humour as Tchaikovsky’s vivid, three-dimensional characters leapt off the page and into my heart. I’m very much hoping there is going to be more of this amazing story…

 

The Falconer trilogy by Elizabeth May
The Falconer; The Vanishing Throne and The Fallen Kingdom
This riveting series features a young, well-bred woman, Lady Aileana, who leads a double life – by day she is the wealthy heiress in an alternate Victorian society, while by night she hunts and kills the fae after witnessing her mother’s brutal murder. Violent and enthralling, this trilogy is one of the reading highlights of the year so far.

 

 

The Song of the Shattered Sands by Bradley Beaulieu
Twelve Kings and Blood Upon the Sand
This sand and sorcery epic fantasy is set in a brutal world ruled by twelve kings possessing great magical power – and the efforts of one lowly-born girl to overturn their stranglehold on the desert city-state. I loved the story so far and will be looking out for the third book, A Veil of Spears, due to be published next year.

 

Planetfall by Emma Newman
Planetfall and After Atlas
This dystopian science fiction series is amazing. Both books are set in the same world, but on different planets and can be read as standalones – I loved each one, though the tone and mood were quite different. After Atlas is my book of the year so far and I will be pouncing on the next book, Before Mars, just as soon as I can get my hands on it.

 

 

Luna by Ian McDonald
New Moon and Wolf Moon
This duology envisages that the industrialisation of the Moon has been divided between five families, all ruthless entrepreneurs who have taken capitalism to the extreme as they continue vying for yet more power – with shocking consequences. McDonald has called this series ‘a game of domes’. I loved the brutal, detailed world and the charismatic characters.

 

Penric and Desdemona novella series by Lois McMaster Bujold
Penric and the Demon; Penric and the Shaman; Penric’s Mission; Mira’s Last Dance
This series is a joy. Each one of these engrossing, beautifully written stories gives us another slice of Penric’s adventures as he copes with the demon he accidentally acquired while helping an elderly woman at the side of the road. Fortunately, Himself is also a serious fan and immediately buys up these gems as soon as they published. Quite right, too.

 

 

Peri Reed Chronicles by Kim Harrison
The Drafter and The Operator
Harrison explores a fascinating premise in this military science fiction thriller, where black ops agents are able to shift small amounts of time to kill or dodge attacks. The snag is that as they alter the timeline, they forget chunks of their lives with the aid of a drafter who helps them avoid a catastrophic neural overload that occurs if they remember more than one version of reality. This is really well done and I thoroughly enjoyed this entertaining duology.

 

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
The Star-Touched Queen and A Crown of Wishes
This lush, eastern-influenced classic fantasy duology is another one of those which is set in the same world with a few linking characters, but follows different storylines. Each one is a delight, full of incident and beautiful descriptions that pinged off the page and lit up cold rainy days as I read.

 

 

The Manifold Worlds series by Foz Meadows
An Accident of Stars and A Tyranny of Queens
This delightful portal worlds adventure is gritty, wise and astonishing. It is one of my favourite series with its emphasis on a number of nuanced, feisty female characters of all ages. This one has lodged in my head and won’t leave – particularly the poignant ending…

 

There are more to come – but I’ll be rounding up the others in another article.

Friday Faceoff – Any planet is ‘Earth’ to those who live on it…

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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 planets, so I’ve chosen The Empress of Mars by the wonderfully talented Kage Baker.

 

This is the cover produced by Tor in May 2009. I like this one – the depiction of the half-terraformed planet is vividly portrayed without any undue clutter or blurb, which makes this one very effective.

 

This Italian edition, produced in October 2007 by Delos Books is more static with the red desert landscape featuring, rather than showing any of the feisty characters that ping off the page. I don’t feel this cover does the book justice, but neither is it an egregious travesty either.

 

Published in December 2008 by Subterranean Press, this cover is less about the Mars environment and more about the characters. It tends to have a sense of fantasy about it, which isn’t quite right. That said, it is eye-catching and effective and anything that encourages a reader to pick one of Baker’s books off the shelf is to be encouraged.

 

This cover, produced by in 2003 by Night Shade Books, once again features a Martian landscape. This depiction certainly looks very like a lot of the images we have seen of Mars, especially the pink-tinged sky and rather foreshortened horizon. I particularly like the font on this one. As for my favourite? This week I simply cannot decide. What about you – do you have a preference?