Tag Archives: steampunk

Review of LIBRARY book Sparrow Falling – Book 2 of the Gears of Empire series by Gaie Sebold #Brainfluffbookreview #LoveYourLibrarychallenge #SciFiMonth2019

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I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this series Shanghai Sparrow – see my review here – so when I spotted this one on the shelves, it was a no-brainer that I’d scoop it up. I am linking this review to SciFiMonth2019.

BLURB: Eveline Sparrow hopes to put her past experiences as a thief and con-artist to more legitimate use; which is why some of the girls at her Sparrow School receive private lessons in burglary, fakery, and other such underhand practices. But it’s hard to get honest work when few businesses will employ young ladies in the security professions. The duns are at the doorstep, her friend Liu the half-fox-spirit is in some sort of trouble, and the rivalries of the Folk are in danger of overspilling into the mundane world and forcing the Empire into a bloody and horrifying war. Can Eveline pull things out of the mire this time, or will the Sparrow’s wings be clipped once and for all?

Once I got into this entertaining steam punk adventure, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Evvie is a sympathetic protagonist, although I didn’t immediately reconnect with her as there didn’t seem to be a major bonding moment in the early stages of the novel. A strength of this series is the quality and depth of the supporting characters who are also depicted alongside Evvie Sparrow. One of my favourites is Ma Pether, the Fagin -like character who had scooped up Evvie off the streets and trained her to be a pickpocket and thief.

The other major character who I have more than a soft spot for is Liu, the half-Fae trickster who travels between the Fae courts and the human world in an attempt to impress his father. And save his own life… The two parallel narratives running alongside one another that power the narrative arc are equally engrossing, so I was never tempted to skim one in order to get back to the other. While it took some time for the book to hit its stride, once both storylines got going this was difficult to put down, and I thoroughly enjoyed the manner in which the resolution came about.

It is always a treat to think you know where a story is going, only to find it shoots off in another direction. I am hoping that Sebold is busy writing an addition to this entertaining series – surely Evvie’s talent for finding trouble has not yet been exhausted and I want more of Ma and Liu as well.

Recommended for fans of well-written steam punk.
8/10

Kindle Unlimited Sci Fi/Fantasy Event – Book Funnel Promotion #Brainfluffbookblog

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This Book Funnel promotion is featuring science fiction and fantasy books available to read in Kindle Unlimited, alongside my own two books, Running Out of Space and Mantivore Dreams. So given it’s Sci Fi Month 2019, I thought I’d feature a selection of the science fiction offerings that have caught my eye. Click on the header to find out more…

The Approach – Book 1 of the Courage Colony series by Holly Ice
When nanites consumed our solar system, they killed every human they infected. Only one ship escaped. They named it Courage. Errai Avila is the biological child of her parents, and shunned for it. She’s an unwelcome anomaly on a generation ship approaching its final destination. All she wants is to escape notice, but when Captain Rima Jabir calls for volunteers to explore their new home, Errai must make a choice. Will she continue to hide in the food hall kitchen, or will she cast off anonymity to finally gain respect?

 

Project Charon: Re-entry by Morton Blake
Forcefully retired from a top-secret military project. Can she save humanity from itself?
On the backwater world of Cayelle, Tina Freeman runs a shop with her son Rex: fifteen years old, half-human, half-android with a massive chip on his shoulder about having been born without arms or legs. The shop makes a modest profit, but when a creditor turns up wanting his money back, everything goes pear-shaped.
She needs money, and needs it fast. Another creditor is impossible to find. That leaves her one option: to return to the world she fled fifteen years ago and Kelso Space Station, where her spaceship has languished for over fifteen years, and finally sells the thing.

 

Discovery by Paul Rix
Mars! Mankind’s next step in space exploration and colonization. Landing is the easy
part. Survival? Well that’s another matter.
Mission specialist Georgia Pyke came to Mars with grand ideas to establish a legacy. Instead, she must face her personal demons and rely on Captain Winter to survive from one day to the next. Has she condemned herself to a lingering death on Mars? As if inhospitable Mars isn’t a sufficient adversary for the astronauts, one of their own has been holding a grudge for six years. How far is that person prepared to go to exact their revenge?

 

Ziegfeld Zagger, Quantum Detective & the Dirty Rotten, Sarcastic Multiverse by Greg Montego
Man plans, the Multiverse laughs!
“Not only is this case stranger than we imagine, it’s stranger than we can imagine.” –Ziegfeld Zaggar
“Anyone who thinks they understand quantum theory, should think again, preferably without thinking.” — Ziegfeld Zaggar
No other detective is quite like Dr. Ziegfeld Zaggar, Quantum Detective — and that’s probably for the best. Zaggar and his reluctant, obsessively linear-thinking sidekick, Jack Robbins, investigate the murder of high-tech industrialist, Roger Mason, a death they realize may lead to far more inconvenient consequences– the accelerated entropy of the Multiverse that will end in…. well the end of everything.
Along the way, they’ll hook up with the ravishing (how could she not be?) agent from the CIA’s Quantum Division, Irene Adler (who else did you expect?)), interrogate a variety of unusual suspects (to say the least!), track down the elusive Mr. Anansi at the even more elusive Magic Theater — where Zaggar is a persona non grata, due to past infractions — and navigate through strange and perilous parallel universes, where it seems like something of immense power is obstructing their progress. For the Multiverse is a dirty rotten, sarcastic trickster, and that has made someone a little bit crazy — and very, very angry.

 

Terminus Cycle – Book 1 of the Andlios series by Dave Walsh
They were humanity’s last hope…
…but would they survive the abyss?

Now, after two generations lived and died aboard the ship, their new home planet looms on the horizon. Jonah just needs to let the mystery of an object in space and the tale of a lost cosmonaut lie and everything will go according to plan. But that meant ignoring the truth: the dark secrets of their mission. Sometimes risking everything for the truth is the only way forward, especially for someone like Jonah. Especially with the lives of 50,000 people hanging in the balance.

 

Riwenne & the Mechanical Beasts – Book 1 of the Divine Warriors series by Kristen S. Walker
When the gods came calling, she was the only one who answered. In a utopian floating city, Riwenne dreams of serving the gods as a priestess. Then she gets a message from the sea goddess urging her to become a warrior. Mechanical beasts are attacking innocent people on the streets at night. Armed with the power of the goddess, Riwenne must learn to fight. But if she wants to save the city, she will need to decide who is a friend and who is an enemy-and the wrong choice could have deadly consequences.

Sunday Post – 10th February, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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

Another week has slipped by – this time in a welter of wind and rain. I’ll take that over snow any day, but it has been wet and dreary for a chunk of time, making the drive into Northbrook and back miserable. I can’t quite believe that this week saw the halfway point of this term come and go… Wednesday evening I attended our writing group where the main discussion somehow morphed into various versions of ‘Lilac Wine’ – there were those of us who felt Nina Simone’s version aced it, while others preferred Elkie Brooks and Miley Cyrus – there’s no accounting for taste! On Thursday, I had a good lesson with Tim, who is working towards his Functional Skills Level 2 Reading exam.

On Friday, I met up with writing buddy Mhairi. We had lunch together at Haskins and browsed, when Mhairi spotted some amazing umbrellas on sale – the big old-fashioned kind, with a lovely pattern of a bee on lavender. Given that it was hammering down outside, I treated myself and it easily kept us both dry while we made our way to car. We had a lovely catch-up together, overshadowed by the fact that she’s moving away from the area very soon. She’s promised to come and stay regularly and I hope she does. I’m so sad that she’s going, though obviously I wish her all the luck in the world in her new home.

Last week I read:
Cyanide with Christie – Crime with the Classics series by Katherine Bolger Hyde
Having finished transforming Windy Corner, the grand Victorian mansion she inherited from her great aunt, into a writers’ retreat, widowed literature professor Emily Cavanaugh is ready to receive her first set of guests. But her careful planning is thrown into disarray by the unexpected arrival of outrageous true-crime writer, Cruella Crime, whose unpardonably rude behaviour is causing great offence. As a ferocious ice storm rages outside, the guests entertain one another with a game of charades. But their revelries are brought to a sudden halt by the discovery of a body in one of the guest bedrooms. When it transpires the victim was poisoned, Emily decides to take a leaf out of the book of her favourite detective writer, Agatha Christie, and investigate. But as she pursues her enquiries, it becomes chillingly clear that she herself may have been the intended victim…
This is fun, particularly for those cosy whodunit fans yearning for the nostalgia of some of the old classics. I’ll be reviewing this one in due course.

The Revenant Express – Book 5 of the Newbury and Hobbes series by George Mann

Following their bloody encounter with the Executioner, Sir Maurice Newbury’s assistant Veronica Hobbes is close to death. Desperate to save her life, Newbury and Veronica’s sister Amelia board a sleeper train bound for St. Petersburg, in the hope that Gustav Faberge might have the answer. But there are enemies on board, and Newbury and Amelia will need all their strength and cunning to survive the Revenant Express.
This action-packed sequel to The Executioner’s Heart follows on more or less immediately from the climactic ending of the previous book, so if you haven’t read it then I’d advise that you do so before picking this one up. Review to follow this week.

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 3rd February 2019

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Endgames – Book 12 of the Imagers Portfolio by L.E. Modesitt Jr

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Knife Children – NOVELLA in The Sharing Knife series by Lois McMaster Bujold

Friday Face-Off featuring Tongues of Serpents – Book 5 of the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik

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

Quotations on integrity https://charlesfrenchonwordsreadingandwriting.wordpress.com/2019/02/06/quotations-on-integrity-4/ Given that baldfaced lying is rapidly becoming an acceptable political tool all over the planet, let’s consider those whose expectations were a whole lot higher…

Let’s talk trigger warnings https://thetattooedbookgeek.wordpress.com/2019/02/08/lets-talk-trigger-warnings-bookblogger-bookbloggers-blogger-bloggers-blogpost/ This is an interesting subject for any blogger – those who do and those who don’t…

It’s Been a Wonderful Five Years… https://inesemjphotography.com/2019/02/09/it-has-been-five-wonderful-years/ She’s absolutely right! This enormously talented photographer has been one of my go-to blogs as I find her photos both inspirational and a huge comfort when the world isn’t being fair…

Will We Read On? Or Put the Book Down? Sometimes It’s The Little Things https://writerunboxed.com/2019/02/09/will-we-read-on-or-put-down-the-book-sometimes-its-the-little-things/ I’m always intrigued to discover what makes other readers DNF a book…

And The Big Secret Project Is… Heart of the Story Editorial & Coaching Services! https://saraletourneauwriter.com/2019/02/09/heart-of-the-story-editorial-coaching-services/ Sara has been a writing buddy for a long time, with a great track record of providing detailed advice for writers. She also did a wonderful job as a beta reader for me on one of my manuscripts! I wish her loads of luck with this project.

In the meantime, many thanks for taking the time to comment, like and visit my blog – have a wonderful week!

Sunday Post – 3rd February, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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

We had several hard frosts this week, before the temperature warmed up – only to suddenly plunge again so that on Thursday evening we had snow falling for nearly four hours, leaving behind over an inch covering everything and fears of travel chaos the following day. Fortunately the sun shone on Friday morning and by the time we had to make the drive to Brighton to pick up the children, it was pouring with rain, finally washing away any traces of snow or ice. Oscar and I spent Saturday morning building a Lego tower together, before my sister popped in with a present – a pack of hangers! I was delighted as I’m always running out. Himself got home at around 1 pm after a 3 am start and after a short nap, he and Oscar played a quick game of Bloodbowl, while Frances and I went out for a coffee/hot chocolate and a natter.

My daughter will be coming over to pick up the children this afternoon, so Oscar and I will be making vegan banana cake together this morning. Other than having the children this weekend, the week has slipped by at the speed of a downhill skier – how come we’re in February, already? I swear that Christmas was only a fortnight ago…

Last week I read:
Dark City – Book 1 of The Order of the Shadows series by Kit Hallows
My name’s Morgan Rook, Supernatural Detective, Undercover Agent, odd jobs man. Call it whatever you like. I take out the nightmares, demons and werewolves. The things that lurk in the shadows around you. Guys like us, we call them Nightkind. And here I was, set to quit this dark life and retire to sunnier climes, except for one final job. There’s always one. This time a call to eliminate a cruel, rogue vampire, named Mr. Tudor. Simple right? Sure. Until the bodies started piling up in a new wave of vicious occult killings leading scarily close to my own front door…
An entertaining, fast-paced urban fantasy adventure featuring a mostly sympathetic protagonist.

Endgames – Book 12 of the Imager Portfolio series by L.E. Modesitt Jr
Solidar is in chaos. Charyn, the young and untested ruler of Solidar, has survived assassination, and he struggles to gain control of a realm in the grip of social upheaval, war, and rioting. Solidar cannot be allowed to slide into social and political turmoil that will leave the High Holders with their ancient power and privilege, and the common people with nothing. But the stakes are even higher than he realizes.
This detailed, slow-burn fantasy adventure featuring a cool-headed young man struggling against difficult odds drew me in. Review to follow.

 

Knife Children – NOVELLA in The Sharing Knife series by Lois McMaster Bujold
Lakewalker Barr Foxbrush returns from two years of patrolling the bitter wilds of Luthlia against the enigmatic, destructive entities called malices, only to find that the secret daughter he’d left behind in the hinterland of Oleana has disappeared from her home after a terrible accusation. The search for her will call on more of Barr’s mind and heart than just his mage powers, as he tries to balance his mistakes of the past and his most personal duties to the future.
Wonderful addition to a favourite fantasy series by this fabulously talented author – review to follow.

Sparrow Falling – Book 2 of Gears of Empire series by Gaie Sebold
Eveline Sparrow hopes to put her past experiences as a thief and con-artist to more legitimate use; which is why some of the girls at her Sparrow School receive private lessons in burglary, fakery, and other such underhand practices. But it’s hard to get honest work when few businesses will employ young ladies in the security professions…
It was fun to reacquaint myself with Evvie after the enjoyable Shanghai Sparrow and her talent for getting into trouble in this steampunk sci fi/fantasy mash-up provides an entertaining adventure.

 

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 27th January 2019

Increasing Discoverability for Women Authors in SFF – 2018

Friday Face-Off featuring Eligible – Book 4 of the Austen Project by Curtis Sittenfeld

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* – Review of Headlong – Book 12 of The Imager Portfolio series by L.E. Modesitt Jr

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

Quitting: Why Letting Go & Moving on Are Crucial for Success https://authorkristenlamb.com/2019/01/successful-people-quitting/ Once again, the wonderful Kristen Lamb provides solid advice for those of us struggling to write amongst all the other stuff going on in our lives…

Music Monday: The Sound of Silence by Disturbed. #Music #MusicMonday https://thetattooedbookgeek.wordpress.com/2019/01/28/music-monday-the-sound-of-silence-by-disturbed/ I know the Simon and Garfunkel version – but this one, I think, is even better…

Piano: A Poem by D.H. Lawrence https://interestingliterature.com/2019/01/28/piano-a-poem-by-d-h-lawrence/ This article features a poignant poem that I’m very fond of. It isn’t brilliant or clever, but its very simplicity always moves me…

PLANETARY AWARDS: Nominations for the best of 2018 https://spaceandsorcery.wordpress.com/2019/01/20/planetary-awards-nominations-for-the-best-of-2018/ Maddalena on her excellent blog provides the links for those of you who enjoy SFF and would like to nominate your favourite novel and novella of last year. I’m currently pummelling my brain into porridge in an effort to choose between a final two…

Grimbold Books’ advice to aspiring authors “Listen to feedback” https://damienseaman.com/publishing-advice-for-aspiring-authors/ Listening to this wonderful interview with Kate reminds me all over again why I submitted to this lovely indie publisher.

In the meantime, many thanks for taking the time to comment, like and visit my blog – have a wonderful week!

Friday Faceoff – Here we are, trapped in the amber of the moment. There is no why… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoff

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and the theme this week the theme to feature on any of our covers is steampunk. I’ve selected The Affinity Bridge – Book 1 of the Newbury and Hobbes series by George Mann, a cracking whodunit set in an alternate Victorian London…

 

This edition was produced by Snow Books in 2008 and is my favourite. I love all the detail and the bright colours. It’s beautiful, full of lovely little touches, like the London cityscape, the little steampunk flourishes and that fabulous airship, which is the template for nearly all the other versions of this book’s covers. While I’ll accept that it probably doesn’t stand out when in thumbnail, I’ll forgive that – who wouldn’t want to expand this cover into glorious full size to capture the full effect?

 

Published in April 2010 by Tor Books, this is another attractive, well-designed offering. The airship is now grungier and less shiny, though every bit as eye-catching. I love the border and the attention to detail, again. I just wish there was less chatter across the cover.

 

This edition, published by Titan Books in July 2015, is certainly bright. The airship is still there and this cover provides lots of detail, but in silhouette. I think the overall effect is successful and eye-catching and I’d probably love it more if I hadn’t already given my heart to the Snow Books effort.

 

This edition, produced by Piper in 2011, takes the original design and makes it their own. It is far more stripped back and I think it is extremely effective – I love the background colour and clever use of the clouds to provide a suitably dramatic backdrop for that magnificent airship. The border is also nicely handled and in thumbnail, this one really pops. This is my second favourite, mostly because I just love that colour…

 

This French cover, published in June 2011, takes a completely different approach. This is the foggy London where Jack the Ripper lurks along with other desperate villains and only the likes of Newbury and Hobbes can get justice done… We see the two protagonists featured on the cover. I do like this effort, though not as much as the others. What about you – which is your favourite?

Teaser Tuesday – 27th March, 2018

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

This is my choice of the day:

Children of the Shaman – Book 1 of the Children of the Shaman series by Jessica Rydill

94% The two men clashed like a hammer striking an anvil, and sparks and shards of ice flew from their blades. Yuda knew his own strength and his weakness; he did not stay locked with Sarl, but darted back, mocking him with speed and lightness of foot. When Sarl strode after him, he returned to the attack, searing the icy armour with tongues of fire.
Sarl spun, cursing like a man plagued with a gadfly, but Yuda was always just out of reach of his whirling swords.

BLURB: When their aunt is taken ill, thirteen-year old Annat and her brother are sent from their small coastal town to live with their unknown father. Like Annat, Yuda is a Shaman; a Wanderer with magical powers, able to enter other worlds. As Annat learns more about her powers, the children join their father on a remarkable train journey to the frozen north and find a land of mystery and intrigue, threatened by dark forces and beset by senseless murders that have halted construction of a new tunnel.

This is one I’ve had on my Kindle for far too long – so I decided to tuck into it. It has proved to be a marvellously engrossing read with lots of unexpected twists in a vividly depicted world. I will definitely be getting hold of the others in the series.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Discovery Challenge 2017 and Tackling My TBR – June Roundup

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After reading Jo Hall’s post on the problems women authors have with getting discovered, I’ve been taking part in the challenge to read and review at least 24 books by female authors each year that were previously unknown to me for the last two years. During June, 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 nineteen. They are:

River of Teeth – Book 1 of the River of Teeth novella series by Sarah Gailey
In the early 20th Century, the United States government concocted a plan to import hippopotamuses into the marshlands of Louisiana to be bred and slaughtered as an alternative meat source. This is true. Other true things about hippos: they are savage, they are fast, and their jaws can snap a man in two. This was a terrible plan. Contained within this volume is an 1890s America that might have been: a bayou overrun by feral hippos and mercenary hippo wranglers from around the globe. It is the story of Winslow Houndstooth and his crew. It is the story of their fortunes. It is the story of his revenge.
This is a real roller-coaster ride with plenty of mayhem and violence along the way. That said, there is also a large dollop of humour amid the tension – think of The Magnificent Seven set in a swamp with hippos. See my review here.

Sherlock Mars by Jackie Kingon
Molly Marbles runs a successful bistro on terraformed Mars. But a virtual restaurant opens near her place, offering the experience of delicacies from across the Solar System with none of the calories. What will this do to her business? Then its owner is murdered in her kitchen. Molly, an amateur detective, springs into action to help the police solve the mystery, while also planning her pop-star daughter’s wedding, keeping her kitchen staff from feuding, and protecting her cyborg friend from the humans-only mob. Meanwhile, the infamous Cereal Serial Killer has escaped prison on Pluto and has everyone worried. Things are getting hectic, but Molly is a resilient and resourceful woman. And her knack for mysteries sees her nick-named ‘Sherlock Mars’.
This is basically a cosy mystery set in space. It has the classic ingredients – a victim that no one seems to care all that much about; a quirky, successful restaurant owner who inexplicably has sufficient time to shoot off here, there and everywhere to run down a number of clues; a friendly law enforcement officer who is happy to let Molly have crucial details of the ongoing case; lots of foodie details along the way. See my review here.

The Invisible Library – Book 1 of The Invisible Library series by Genevieve Gogman
Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, which harvests fiction from different realities. And along with her enigmatic assistant Kai, she’s posted to an alternative London. Their mission – to retrieve a dangerous book. But when they arrive, it’s already been stolen. London’s underground factions seem prepared to fight to the very death to find her book. Adding to the jeopardy, this world is chaos-infested – the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic. Irene’s new assistant is also hiding secrets of his own. Soon, she’s up to her eyebrows in a heady mix of danger, clues and secret societies. Yet failure is not an option – the nature of reality itself is at stake.
I really enjoyed Irene’s character – brought up knowing that she would eventually always work for the Library as her parents were both Librarians, she is slightly apart from many of her colleagues. She is also cool-headed and used to keeping her own counsel – quite different from many of the rather emotional protagonists we are used to seeing in fantasy adventure. Review to follow.

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

The Dog Walker – Book 5 of The Detective’s Daughter series by Lesley Thomson
January, 1987. In the depths of winter, only joggers and dog walkers brave the Thames towpath after dark. Helen Honeysett, a young newlywed, sets off for an evening run from her riverside cottage and disappears. Twenty-nine years later, Helen’s body has never been found. Her husband has asked Stella Darnell, a private detective, and her side-kick Jack Harmon, to find out what happened all those years ago. But when the five households on that desolate stretch of towpath refuse to give up their secrets, Stella and Jack find themselves hunting a killer whose trail has long gone cold.
I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Thomson’s atmospheric writing this time around has taken us to another obscure corner of London – she seems to specialise in those – where a crime was committed that shatters one family and blights the lives of others, including the husband of the victim. See my review here.

The Invisible Library – Book 1 of The Invisible Library series by Genevieve Cogman
See above

This means I’ve managed to clear thirty-two books from my teetering TBR pile so far this year – a lot better than last year so far. Have you read any of the above books? If so, what did you think?

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* The Fallen Kingdom – Book 3 of The Falconer series by Elizabeth May

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I was delighted when I got notification from the local library that this book had come in. Having read the first two books in the trilogy – read my review of The Falconer here – I was more than keen to see where May would take this exciting story to its conclusion.

Aileana Kameron, resurrected by ancient fae magic, returns to the world she once knew with no memory of her past and with dangerous powers she struggles to control. Desperate to break the curse that pits two factions of the fae against each other in a struggle that will decide the fate of the human and fae worlds, her only hope is hidden in an ancient book guarded by the legendary Morrigan, a faery of immense power and cruelty. To save the world and the people she loves, Aileana must learn to harness her dark new powers even as they are slowly destroying her.

Firstly, my firm advice would be not to open this one if you have not yet had the pleasure of reading the previous two books, The Falconer and The Vanishing Throne. While you may well be able to pick up what is going on, there is so much backstory you’ll have missed, you will not be getting the best out of this climactic instalment if you do not know what has preceded this final adventure.

After all Aileana has been through during the first two books, we first meet up with her as she newly emerges after her death. She has no idea who she is or what has happened to her. This is more difficult to pull off than May makes it look. The concluding scene of the previous book, The Vanishing Throne, left our protagonist on a real cliffhanger – therefore, it would have been all too easy for the start of this one to have dropped the energy and tension so successfully built up. Fortunately, May is too canny for that to happen. Aileana’s plight immediately gripped me and despite several months elapsing since reading the previous book, I was at once transported back into this shattered, dying world.

As this is the last book, I am unable to comment much on the details of the storyline as I do not wish to provide any spoilers. However, readers who have already enjoyed this series so far, will be relieved to know that Aileana still possesses all her feisty aggression. One of the major causes of tension is the knowledge that her new formidable power comes at a very high price – every time she uses the deadly magic gifted to her, it continues to kill her. In short, she is little more than a primed weapon forged by one of the Fae desperate to avoid the inevitable apocalypse brought on by an ancient curse. May’s detailed world building and magical rules pass almost unnoticed as I grappled with Aileana’s impending doom. For nothing can be taken for granted as May has already shown us she is not afraid to kill off important characters.

The pages flew by as I followed Aileana’s desperate efforts to save the world. Indeed, it is such a struggle, she finds herself allied with characters I would have expected her to kill on sight. Would she prevail? Would she have to sacrifice those she loves most? And what would happen to her should she succeed? It is one thing to set up such a tense dynamic – it is something else to bring it to a fully satisfying conclusion. I can report that May triumphantly succeeds.
10/10