I read the first book in this delightful series, Nice Dragons Finish Last – see my review longer ago than I care to think, fully intending to pick up the rest of them. But somehow Life and other books got in the way. But I’m back here now – and delighted to see the whole series is available on KU. I am linking this review with Wyrd and Wonder 2020.
BLURB: After barely escaping the machinations of his terrifying mother, two all knowing seers, and countless bloodthirsty siblings, the last thing Julius wants to see is another dragon. Unfortunately for him, the only thing more dangerous than being a useless Heartstriker is being a useful one, and now that he’s got an in with the Three Sisters, Julius has become a key pawn in Bethesda the Heartstriker’s gamble to put her clan on top.
This is a real delight. I love the partnership and unfolding romance developing between Julius and Marci – not that they have too much time to dwell on their feelings for one another. Julius belongs to one of the most ambitious Dragon clans on the planet. When one of his higher ranked siblings decides that he is somehow crucial to the crisis Estella is creating, he finds a steady stream of his brothers and sisters dropping in to complicate matters further.
One of the complicating matters is his mortal partner and mage, Marci, has not just got a nifty set of spells at her disposal, her otherworldly familiar, a ghost cat creatively named Ghost is more than he seems. In fact, this is one of the delights of this enjoyable series, Aaron is very good at delivering a cracking plot where you think one thing is happening, when it actually transpires that there was something else going on all the time. I do love it when authors successfully pull off this technique – and Aaron is a whizz at it.
Julius is an interesting protagonist. In a genre where power and talent are always highly prized and opens doors for our plucky heroes and heroines – all Julius has to offer is… niceness. Dragons are not nice. They are greedy, ambitious, ruthless, cunning and devoted to gaining more power at the expense of their competitors, who quickly transform into their enemies. It takes strong writing to make such a weak protagonist prevail against the might of far more powerful peers – and allow us to continue finding him interesting. Fortunately, Marci isn’t quite so nice, although her edges appear to be almost cosy in comparison to your average dragon.
The pages turned by themselves and I found myself facing the final page far too quickly. This is a classy, well executed urban fantasy full of my favourite creatures magnificently portrayed. I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series, No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished. Highly recommended for fans of quality urban fantasy.
I’m conscious that I’ve never experienced a month like it in the whole of my life – and I’m not sure I ever will again… Or perhaps I will. Perhaps May and June will continue being in social isolation with lots of handwashing and staying at home. But what has kept my head straight is my love of reading and writing – thank goodness for both! I’ve also loved the wonderful sunny weather – it’s been a joy being able to sit in the garden and watch Spring springing… I’m conscious that I am very blessed. And given that none of us can guarantee if we will survive this, I’ve determined to be as thankful for every coming day as I can be. So despite everything, this has been a very precious April.
I read eighteen books in April, which isn’t quite as marvellous as it sounds, as one of those was a short story and another was a novella. This is the list:
The Book of Koli – Book 1 of the Rampart trilogy by M.R. Carey
The Last Emperox – Book 3 of the Interdependency series by John Scalzi
Shorefall – Book 2 of The Founders Trilogy by Robert Jackson Bennett
Scythe – Dimension Drift prequel NOVELLA #1 by Christina Bauer
The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker. This is my EBOOK read of the month
Dead Eye – Book 1 of the Tiger’s Eye Mystery series by Alyssa Day
Arkadian Skies – Book 6 of the Fallen Empire series by Lindsay Buroker
Q by Christina Dalcher
The Hedgeway SHORT STORY by Vivienne Tuffnell
A Little Bit Witchy – Book 1 of the Riddler’s Edge series by A.A. Albright
The Dark Side of the Road – Book 1 of the Ishmael Jones series by Simon R. Green
Firewalkers by Adrian Tchaikovsky
The Mirror and the Light – Book 3 of the Thomas Cromwell series by Hilary Mantel. This is my AUDIOBOOK read of the month
The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing – Book 2 of the Vish Puri series by Tarquin Hall
The Palm Tree Messiah by Sarah Palmer – manuscript read
Witch Dust – Book 1 of the Witch series by Marilyn Messik
Girls of Paper and Fire – Book 1 of Girls of Paper and Fire series by Natasha Ngan
After Seth by Caron Garrod
I continued working on my Creative Writing How-To Book on Characterisation and I’m pleased with the progress, but I woke up on 11th April with an epiphany about some issues that had been niggling me with Mantivore Warrior – so I dropped my How-To book and immediately dived back into the manuscript to fix it. I’ve learnt from hard experience not to ever put those kinds of moments off – otherwise they pass and I forget!
I have also been working on another project that I’m hoping to be able to discuss in another couple of weeks. I don’t normally flit between so many different writing projects – but right now everything is extraordinary. So it makes sense that my writing patterns would suddenly go AWOL, too… Overall, I wrote just over 43,000 words in April, with just under 17,000 words on my blog and just under 25,500 words going towards my writing projects, which brings my yearly total to just under 180,000 words so far.
I have found keeping up with my blog such a source of comfort and encouragement – I know social media can be responsible for some dark acts, but I happen to be fortunate enough to inhabit a really lovely corner, where I meet some of the nicest people on the planet. But that’s not a surprise, because they are readers, or writers, or both. I hope May is a good month for you and that you stay safe. Take care.xxx
I’ve just read my roundup for February with a sense of unreality, because I didn’t once mention COVID 19. And whatever else I was chatting about, it didn’t include social isolation, daily death tolls and endless hand-washing. And now I’m going to take a deep breath and make that the last time I talk about that stuff. Because this is about carrying on as best we can, despite all that misery and fear. And maybe it’s rank cowardice, but I’m turning to the biggest consolation in my life, when the going gets tough. The one thing that never lets me down – books.
I read nineteen books in March, which I think is a record number. It was a really good month, with some cracking reads. This is the list:
Death of a Bean Counter – Book 12 of the Maggy Thorsen mystery series by Sandra Balzo – Review to follow
Song of Achilles AUDIOBOOK by Madeline Miller – this is my oustanding audiobook read of the month. Review to follow.
Feathertide by Beth Cartwright. Review to follow.
A Dying Fall – Book 5 of the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths.
Longbourn AUDIOBOOK by Jo Baker. Review to follow.
On Writing by Stephen King
Minimum Wage Magic – Book 1 of the DFZ series by Rachel Aaron
By the Pricking of her Thumb – Book 2 of the Real-Town Murders by Adam Roberts
The Case of the Missing Servant – Book 1 of the Vish Puri series by Tarquin Hall
Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer AUDIOBOOK – Book 1 of Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series by Rick Riordan
No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished – Book 3 of the Heartstriker series by Rachel Aaron. Review to follow
The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie
The Clutter Corpse – Book 1 of the Decluttering Mysteries by Simon Brett. Review to follow
Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Macksey – this is my outstanding book of the month. Review to follow.
A Dragon of a Different Colour – Book 4 of the Heartstriker series by Rachel Aaron
I finally completed the first draft of Mantivore Warrior in the second week of March. The book ended up being just over 103,000 words long – so much for thinking I was nearing the end at the 75,000 words mark! It took another 12,500 words to finish it and then I was quite ill for nearly a fortnight. I do need to learn to pace myself…
I’ve put it on one side and have been working on my first Creative Writing How-To book on Characterisation. It’s going reasonably well, I’ve just finished Chapter Five on Viewpoint, but it’s very different to writing fiction. I’m hoping to have it completed by the end of April – but with all that’s going on, inevitably that has to be more of a hope than a solid target. Overall, I wrote just over 48,000 words in March, with just over 15,000 words on my blog and just under 30,000 words going towards my writing projects, which brings my yearly total to just over 136,000 words so far.
Like many others, I’m finding my online friends a real source of consolation. I can’t tell you how grateful I feel having so many lovely people around me from the book blogging community to talk books with. It’s at times like these that you discover what really matters and who has your back… Wishing everyone a peaceful, healthy April and stay safe.xx
And here we are in March, already… The final week of February proved to be a bit grim as I became ill and rather miserable. The unending rain didn’t help, either… Nonetheless, it proved to be a reasonably productive month as I wrote just over 49,000 words altogether, with nearly 35,500 words on Mantivore Warrior, just over 11,500 words on the blog and just over 2,000 in lesson planning and evaluations.
I read twelve books in February and DNF’d an audiobook because I couldn’t get on with the narrator – the first time that’s happened to me. This is the list of twelve books I completed:
You Let Me In by Camilla Bruce – my outstanding read of the month
The Case of the Reincarnated Client – Book 5 of the Vish Puri series by Tarquin Hall
AUDIOBOOK Uprooted by Naomi Novi – audio read of the month
A Blight of Blackwings – Book 2 of the Seven Kennings series by Kevin Hearne
P is for Pluto – Book 3 of the Molly Marbles series by Jackie Kingon
AUDIOBOOK Salt Lane – Book 1 of the DS Alexander Cupidi series by William Shaw
Sacred Bride – Book 3 of the Olympus series by David Hair & Cat Mayo
Skyward – Book 1 of the Skyward series by Brandon Sanderson
The Doors of Eden by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valor by Ally Carter
Murder Your Darlings – Book 3 of the Francis Meadowes series by Mark McCrum
Magic Bites – Book 1 of the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews
I was some 75,000 words into Mantivore Warrior and decided that I was within touching distance of the end – so decided to blast for the finishing line. A mistake – I was nothing of the sort, given that I had a fair amount to tie up in this the last of the trilogy. And as I tried to prioritise my writing to the exclusion of everything else – I was a bit dismayed at just what a struggle it was as there are still a lot of calls on my time. And the stress of trying to push so hard pitchforked me back to feeling dreadful, both physically and mentally… Let’s hope I’ve learnt that lesson and don’t make the same mistake next time around.
Given the car-crash I made of managing my work/life balance at the end of the month (I didn’t…) it won’t be a surprise to learn that keeping the blog going was an almighty fail. Sorry folks. It doesn’t help to drop all the balls, I know. But hopefully this won’t happen again! On the plus side, I’ve been buoyed and comforted by the kind messages and encouragement that I’ve been receiving about my decision to ease down on my blogging frequency. Thank you so much for taking the time to send said comfort – it’s been mightily appreciated and certainly justifies my decision NOT to completely walk away from my blog.
The cover snagged my attention, because… dragons! And so I was delighted when I saw a copy of this in my local library.
There’s nothing special about Ben Garston. He’s just a guy with an attitude in a beat-up leather jacket, drowning his sorrows in a downtown bar. Or so he’d have you believe. What Ben Garston can’t let you know is that he was once known as Red Ben. That the world of myth and legend isn’t just a fantasy, as we’ve been led to believe. And he certainly can’t let you know the secret of what’s hiding just beneath his skin…
The clue about this book actually was splashed across the front cover Not all stories are made up and unlike much front cover chatter, this short phrase actually was the key to understanding this book. James Bennett is a principally a storyteller. Yes – I know all writers exhale stories, but storytellers tell… And so while the world is a delightful mash-up, convincingly portrayed and Ben is suitably angst-ridden and vulnerable – what prevented me from completely losing my heart to this one, is that there are large sections written in semi-omniscient and omniscient viewpoint. That isn’t a bad thing – indeed, lots of readers love that way of depicting the action, however I found it slightly distanced me from both the character and the world as I prefer experiencing my reads from the inside out.
That said, I still thoroughly enjoyed the adventures of Red Ben and found the pages flew by as I wanted to know what happened next. This was a strong start to what looks to be an engaging series.
This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.
Again, I’m really sorry… I STILL haven’t caught up with comments and blog visits after my walk in the wilderness, when I was cast adrift from the internet for nearly a fortnight. It’s been a rather busy week…
On Monday, it was my last teaching session of the year with Tim – and yet we couldn’t take it easy as he had his Functional Skills Level 2 Writing exam on Thursday. It’s been a momentous year in every sense of the word, having successfully filmed his musical comedy adventure film with a cast of 23, in nine different locations. He has also succeeded in passing his CoPE project, as well as the Composition and Performance strands of his GCSE Music exam – we’re just waiting to hear if he has managed to pass the Theory element. Even more importantly, he is also a delightful, articulate young man, who is a joy to teach and is increasingly confident in branching out in his learning.
I was teaching Creative Writing on Monday and Tuesday evenings, then on Wednesday we had the Northbrook Information Evening, which I always look forward to as a chance to meet up with my fellow tutors. I was lucky enough to be invited for tea with Sarah and her family, before we had our fortnightly writing group – a treat as she is a fantastic cook. On Thursday, I drove Tim and his mother to school for his exam, which has now become something of a ritual – he came out happy that he answered both questions to the best of his ability, which is all we can ask for. I was supposed to go out to West Sussex Writers’ talk on Thursday evening, but fell asleep and when I woke up – the meeting was half over. So I slummocked on the sofa, instead, watching the final of Britain’s Best Home Cook.
On Friday, I had lunch with my sister at the Look and Sea café and we spent the rest of the afternoon chatting and catching up with each other’s lives – it is such a joy having her so close! Then yesterday, my writing buddy came over for the day and we discussed all things writing and dived into the whirlpool that is Marketing. Today is my stepfather’s birthday party designed to coincide with Father’s Day, so there is a great gathering of the clan at my sister’s house at Arlesford. It was a lovely party hosted by my lovely sister and brother in law, who were marvellous hosts and it was great fun catching up with family members I don’t see very often.
This week I have read:
Crossways – Book 2of the Psi-Tech series by Jacey Bedford
Ben Benjamin, psi-tech Navigator, and Cara Carlinni, Telepath, can never go home again. To the Trust and Alphacorp alike, they are wanted criminals. Murder, terrorism, armed insurrection, hijacking, grand theft, and kidnapping are just the top of a long list of charges they’ll face if they’re caught. So they better not get caught…
I picked up this one at Forbidden Planet back in February – and I’m so glad I did – I’m also glad that I have the final book in this trilogy, Nimbus which I’m really looking forward to tucking into.
All Systems Red – Book 1 of the Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells
In a corporate-dominated spacefaring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids, for their own safety. But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn’t a primary concern.
On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied ‘droid — a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as “Murderbot.” Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is. But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it’s up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth.
This novella is a fabulous colony-based adventure with the android as the protagonist – I loved this one and can see why there’s so much hype about it.
Nolander – Book 1 of the Emanations series by Becca Mills
Beth Ryder knows she’s different. In a tiny rural town, being an orphaned and perpetually single amateur photographer crippled by panic disorder is pretty much guaranteed to make you stick out like a sore thumb. But Beth doesn’t understand just how different she really is.
One day, strange things start cropping up in her photos. Things that don’t look human. Impossible things. Monstrosities. Beth thinks her hateful sister-in-law, Justine, has tampered with her pictures to play a cruel joke, but rather than admitting or denying it, Justine up and vanishes, leaving the family in disarray. Beth’s search for Justine plunges her into a world she never knew existed, one filled with ancient and terrifying creatures.
I thoroughly enjoyed this unusual urban fantasy offering, featuring a protagonist suffering from constant panic attacks – to the extent that she cannot escape the small town she grew up in and attend college. This one immediately drew me in – I will be reviewing it in due course.
My posts during the last week:
Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:
New DIY MFA Post on Revenge as a Literary Theme (Plus, Looking for Your Help with this Year’s Blogoversary https://saraletourneauwriter.com/2018/06/13/diy-mfa-revenge-theme-blogoversary/ Sara discusses how the theme of revenge has been used – and asks for suggestions on how she could best celebrate her 10th anniversary of blogging…
Mark your calendars for the Indian Lit Readathon! https://thisislitblog.com/2018/06/16/mark-your-calendars-for-the-indian-lit-readathon/ Shruti is very excited about this one – quite right too. So dust off your books written by Indian authors and join in…
Rocks and Light: Natural Art https://writersite.org/2018/06/11/rocks-and-light-on-canvas/ This article is not only interesting and well written – but includes the most fabulous photos…
#lessons learned from @HollyBlack: Start the #storytelling with #writing the departure from the #characters normal https://jeanleesworld.com/2018/06/07/lessons-learned-from-hollyblack-start-the-storytelling-with-writing-the-departure-from-the-characters-normal/ Another cracking and highly readable article giving readers and writers alike insights in the craft of writing…
The Skincare Bible by Dr Anjali Mahto https://onereadersthoughts.com/2018/06/11/the-skincare-bible-by-dr-anjali-mahto/ I don’t normally include reviews – but this delightful book sounds like an ideal present (HINT – my birthday is coming up VERY soon…) for myself and other family members!
Thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site – and I promise to get back to you as soon as I can!
I read several positive reviews of this one and took one look at the cover – and requested it…
Janzen Robinson is a man lost between two worlds. Five years removed from a life as an apprentice to a group of do-gooding heroes who championed the fight against supernatural evils, the once-promising student is now a package courier going through the daily grind, passing time at a hole-in-the-wall bar and living in a tiny, run-down apartment on the south side of Cleveland, Ohio. Then fate (or a case of bad timing) brings him face to face with a door that’s got his old life written all over it. From the ancient recesses of unyielding darkness known as the Abyss, a creature has been summoned: a Stalker, a predator whose real name is forbidden to be spoken aloud. It’s a bastardization of the natural order, a formidable blend of dark magic and primal tenacity. Its single-minded mission? Ending the life of a fiery, emerging young witch.
Though the cool cover shouts otherwise – at least to me, who thought this was going to morph into epic fantasy, this story is very much within the urban fantasy genre. That said, there are some striking differences that make this one stand out. Yes, Janzen has been selected as an apprentice due to his natural talent – however, that was a while ago. In the meantime, something terrible has happened to his mentor and he has spent the last five years just getting by. Therefore, while he does have raw talent, there is relatively little skill or finesse in his workings. I really like the idea that he is only half trained and that because of his chippy, mouthy character, he is also tricky to help, as he is often his own worst enemy.
That doesn’t stop him plunging into a desperate situation against a very dangerous opponent without too much thought about the consequences. This is partly due to his own bloody-minded nature and partly due to the survivor guilt he still feels.
While I’m always wary of assuming authors necessarily shoehorn their own lives into their writing, I was interested to read that Davis is a war veteran who served in Iraq. The young soldier who befriends Janzen is very well depicted and all the action scenes are effective and realistic.
In short, this one held me throughout. I liked the dynamic and the fact that there was no romantic relationship running throughout – a refreshing change in urban fantasy, these days. I also liked the scrabbling, somewhat desperate nature of Janzen’s opposition to the nasties ranged against him. I particularly appreciated the monsters – especially the stalkers, which are truly terrifying creatures.
All in all, this is a thoroughly enjoyable new series and I very much look forward to reading another slice of Janzen’s adventures – I hope Davies writes quickly. While I obtained an arc of Blunt Force Magic from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
I have really enjoyed the previous books in this superior werewolf series – see my reviews of Silver, Tarnished and Reflected – and was delighted to see this one on my Kindle, evidently bought as a gift from Himself.
When an envoy arrives from the secretive Russian werewolf pack, Roanoke alphas Silver and Andrew Dare are instantly suspicious. Tatiana claims she has been sent to locate an heirloom, lost by immigrants centuries ago, but she and the alphas both suspect that Russia fears the strength of the newly-united, continent-spanning Roanoke pack.
This is an interesting book. Andrew and Silver are absolutely correct to be concerned about this envoy as they fall prey to an unusual form of attack and while they lie comatose, fighting for their lives, they find themselves in vivid dreams or visions where an alternative timeline prevails.
It isn’t necessarily the same timeline and there is some confusion/crossover where Andrew, in particular, knows that he isn’t really a brutalised enforcer at the mercy of an inept alpha he actually took care of years ago. And that lands him in a shedload of trouble, just at a time when he doesn’t need it. However, it is Silver’s timeline which is probably the most heart-rending. In her alternate timeline, she has escaped the devastating effects of being injected with silver, so she no longer struggles with a paralysed arm or is unable to Change. So you’d think she would be capering for joy – except the consequences for her pack having not been the one hit is catastrophic. She is whole and her family are still alive, but the cost is terrible…
Meanwhile the Russian envoy, who incapacitated these two high-profile alphas, is having to cope with some hard truths of her own. Expecting to be torn to pieces for attacking Andrew and Silver, she is shaken at the response, having been raised so very differently. While I would recommend you read the series in order, this book would make a good entry point with the flashbacks and as we follow Tatiana as she copes with the difference in customs between the Russian and US packs, we learn a fair amount about the politics in this complex, intriguing world that Held has constructed. I was also pleased to meet up with John and Susan again – they are solid favourites of mine, particularly Susan. It’s refreshing to read an urban fantasy werewolf series where the strong characters aren’t necessarily the largest and shaggiest with the sharpest teeth.
Knowing how Held can take a story and produce unexpected twists, the pages flew by as I was engrossed in this story right up to the end. I don’t think this is her best book – the visions/dreams did slightly remove that edge of danger that generally permeates these adventures. However, there was more character development and it was lovely to get back to this enjoyable, complex world. I’m very much looking forward to reading more books in this quality series.
Himself had picked up this one up as a Recommended Read and loaded it up on our Kindles – and after reading it, enthusiastically suggested I also read it. And I generally listen to Himself on the subject of books…
On the outside, Dina Demille is the epitome of normal. She runs a quaint Victorian Bed and Breakfast in a small Texas town, owns a Shih Tzu named Beast, and is a perfect neighbor, whose biggest problem should be what to serve her guests for breakfast. But Dina is…different: Her broom is a deadly weapon; her Inn is magic and thinks for itself. Meant to be a lodging for otherworldly visitors, the only permanent guest is a retired Galactic aristocrat who can’t leave the grounds because she’s responsible for the deaths of millions and someone might shoot her on sight. Under the circumstances, “normal” is a bit of a stretch for Dina. And now, something with wicked claws and deepwater teeth has begun to hunt at night… Feeling responsible for her neighbors, Dina decides to get involved.
Dina is a thoroughly engaging protagonist. Impulsive, brave and with an over-developed sense of responsibility, she immediately plunges into this adventure when she feels the caretaker of this territory is not doing enough. I really enjoyed her character, particularly as she also has a vulnerability that pulled me further onto her side. She has lost her parents, who disappeared from their thriving Inn and though she has spent years trying to track them down, all her efforts have ended in failure.
As for this particular threat – she quickly finds she has met her match and needs some help. Once again, this urban fantasy adventure delivers in giving us an interesting take on both vampires and werewolves. The science fiction twist is a delight and I liked the supporting cast – Sean, the touchy alpha werewolf and her one and only permanent guest, Caldenia, the aristocrat in hiding. There is plenty of sharp dialogue with a fair amount of humour.
Meanwhile, I cared about the main plotline – Andrews puts her young innkeeper in real jeopardy and I stayed awake reading far longer than I should have in order to discover how the final climactic battle would resolve itself. For fans of urban fantasy, this is a well written, enjoyable take on the genre with some refreshing touches. No wonder Himself recommended it – I do, too.