Archive for review

Guy Adams – The Rain-Soaked Bride

guyadams-therainsoakedbrideHow do you stop an assassin that can’t be killed? 

When several members of the diplomatic service die in seemingly innocent, yet strangely similar circumstances, it seems a unique form of murder is being used. 

Toby Greene is part of Section 37, known as The Clown Service, a mostly forgotten branch of British Intelligence tasked with fighting exactly this kind of threat. 

However, the Rain-Soaked Bride is no ordinary assassin. Relentless, inexorable and part of a larger game, merely stopping this impossible killer may not be enough to save the day…

The first book in this series, The Clown Service, took me by surprise earlier this summer. While the concept and its bright cover intrigued me sufficiently to pick it up, I hadn’t expected to enjoy it as much as I did. I was utterly charmed by Toby, his supervisor August Shining, Shining’s sister April and their neighbour Tamar. The Rain-Soaked Bride was already on my TBR-pile and I started it as soon as I could, because I couldn’t wait to get back to Toby and friends.   Continue reading »

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William Ritter – Jackaby

williamritter-jackabyNewly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, 1892, and in need of a job, Abigail Rook meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with a keen eye for the extraordinary–including the ability to see supernatural beings. Abigail has a gift for noticing ordinary but important details, which makes her perfect for the position of Jackaby’s assistant. On her first day, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a thrilling case: A serial killer is on the loose. The police are convinced it’s an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain it’s a nonhuman creature, whose existence the police–with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane—deny.

Billed as Sherlock meets Dr Who and provided with a gorgeous cover, Jackaby first caught my eye when I saw it on one of the Book Smugglers Radar posts. And despite having watched neither show, only being aware of them through my twitter timeline, I was intrigued. With good reason as it turns out, because William Ritter’s debut is a delightful read.  Continue reading »

By Published Posted in crime, fantasy, historical fiction, review, YA | 1 Comment

Quick ‘n Dirty: Mark Charan Newton – The Messenger

Quick ‘n Dirty is a term used for that first quick search you perform when starting a new research project. It doesn’t have to be exhaustive and all encompassing; it’s just an exploratory search to see what is out there and to collect more search terms before starting a true literature review. I thought it would be a good description for reviews of shorter works, such as short stories or novellas or for less comprehensive reviews of longer works. They may not be as in-depth as I usually try to write my reviews, but hopefully they’ll be a good introduction and indication whether you’d like the stories or books reviewed.

markcharannewton-themessengerAs an Officer of the Sun Chamber, Lucan Drakenfeld must uphold the two-hundred-year-old laws of the Vispasian Royal Union, whatever the cost. While stationed in the ancient city of Venyn, a metropolis notorious for its lawless nature, Drakenfeld receives a series of mysterious letters, written in blood, that warn of an imminent assassination attempt on the life of the city’s young Prince Bassim. Supported by his fiery colleague Leana, Drakenfeld’s investigation leads him down the city’s corridors of power. But nothing is as it seems. Who is behind the conspiracy that threatens the young prince, and will the duo be able to unearth the perpetrator before the prince’s time is up?

The Messenger is a short story set in the world of Mark Charan Newton’s Drakenfeld series. Set before the events related in the first book in the series, the eponymous Drakenfeld, it serves as a great introduction to Vispasia and Lucan Drakenfeld for those unfamiliar with the series. For those who have read the previous book The Messenger is a nice appetiser before the publication of the second book Retribution in October.  Continue reading »

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Scott K. Andrews – TimeBomb

scottkandrews-timebombNew York City, 2141: Yojana Patel throws herself off a skyscraper, but never hits the ground.

Cornwall, 1640: gentle young Dora Predennick, newly come to Sweetclover Hall to work, discovers a badly-burnt woman at the bottom of a flight of stairs. When she reaches out to comfort the dying woman, she’s knocked unconscious, only to wake, centuries later, in empty laboratory room.

On a rainy night in present-day Cornwall, seventeen-year-old Kaz Cecka sneaks into the long-abandoned Sweetclover Hall, determined to secure a dry place to sleep. Instead he finds a frightened housemaid who believes Charles I is king and an angry girl who claims to come from the future.

Thrust into the centre of an adventure that spans millennia, Dora, Kaz and Jana must learn to harness powers they barely understand to escape not only villainous Lord Sweetclover but the forces of a fanatical army… all the while staying one step ahead of a mysterious woman known only as Quil.

When I first learned of TimeBomb, I thought it sounded really interesting, which meant I was stoked to have won an ARC via Twitter. Described as a YA trilogy featuring time travel and Roundheads and Cavaliers, it sounded like it should be a tremendous amount of fun and that is exactly what it was. TimeBomb was a page turner of a story, with a cool premise and fabulous characters.   Continue reading »

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Cam Baity and Benny Zelkowicz – The Foundry’s Edge

baityzelkowicz-thefoundrysedgeTwo kids on a rescue mission.
A mysterious realm of living metal.
One secret that will change the world.

For Phoebe Plumm, life in affluent Meridian revolves around trading pranks with irksome servant Micah Tanner and waiting for her world-renowned father, Dr. Jules Plumm, to return home. Chief Surveyor for The Foundry, a global corporation with an absolute monopoly on technology, Phoebe’s father is often absent for months at a time. But when a sudden and unexpected reunion leads to father and daughter being abducted, Phoebe and would-be rescuer Micah find themselves stranded in a stunning yet volatile world of living metal, one that has been ruthlessly plundered by The Foundry for centuries and is the secret source of every comfort and innovation the two refugees have ever known.

The Foundry’s Edge is the first instalment in The Book of Ore and is aimed at the middle grade market. As such it is a bit younger than I usually read, but in my opinion it’s very much at the upper range and there will be plenty young adult readers who will get a kick out of this story. It’s a very fun romp with a lot of action and very cool characters. I enjoyed the book tremendously, not least because of the wonderfully inventive world of Mehk and the cool characters that inhabit it.   Continue reading »

By Published Posted in children's books, fantasy, review | 1 Comment

Eric Brown – Jani and the Greater Game

ericbrown-janiandthegreatergameIt’s 1910 and the British rule the subcontinent with an iron fist – and with strange technology fuelled by a power source known as Annapurnite – discovered in the foothills of Mount Annapurna. But they rule at the constant cost of their enemies, mainly the Russian and the Chinese, attempting to learn the secret of this technology… This political confrontation is known as The Greater Game.

Into this conflict is pitched eighteen year old Janisha Chaterjee who discovers a strange device which leads her into the foothills of the Himalayas. When Russians spies and the evil priest Durga Das find out about the device, the chase is on to apprehend Janisha before she can reach the Himalayas. There she will learn the secret behind Annapurnite, and what she learns will change the destiny of the world for ever.

Jani and the Greater Game is not your usual Eric Brown, at least not at first blush. There are no huge space ships, or alien invasions or travel among the stars, at least not judging from the synopsis on the back of the book. Instead, we’re given a YA steampunk adventure set in an alternative 1910 British Raj. Yet it turns out Jani and the Greater Game actually is classic Eric Brown: the book explores societal change and how his characters react to this, though in this case the change isn’t brought about through alien occupation, but through the rise of Indian Nationalism and the threat of invasion from places unknown.   Continue reading »

By Published Posted in review, science fiction, YA | 1 Comment

Jessie Burton – The Miniaturist

jessieburton-theminiaturistOn an autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman knocks at the door of a grand house in the wealthiest quarter of Amsterdam. She has come from the country to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt, but instead she is met by his sharp-tongued sister, Marin. Only later does Johannes appear and present her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. It is to be furnished by an elusive miniaturist, whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in unexpected ways . . .

Nella is at first mystified by the closed world of the Brandt household, but as she uncovers its secrets she realizes the escalating dangers that await them all. Does the miniaturist hold their fate in her hands? And will she be the key to their salvation or the architect of their downfall?

Jessie Burton’s debut novel The Miniaturist is set in seventeenth-century Amsterdam. This was Holland’s Golden Age and as such an important part of my country’s heritage. For that reason alone the book would have been of interest to me. Add to that the wonderful inspiration for the book, the Oortman doll-house still on display in our Rijksmuseum, and the fact that a lot of people who’s opinion I respect were saying nothing but good things about it, and the book became a must-read.   Continue reading »

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By Published Posted in historical fiction, review | 1 Comment

John James – The Fourth Gwenevere

johnjames-thefourthgwenevereGwenevere, Arthur’s Saxon wife, is a problem. As the dynastic cement between the British and the Saxons, her marriage to Arthur will result in a child that will unite both sides. At least, that would have been the plan, had the Great Duke Arthur not died and left the petty kings of Britain to squabble over his title.

Only Morvran, Arthur’s chief fixer, has the wit to see that the Fourth Gwenevere is the key to maintaining a crumbling peace. But when she is abducted, it seems that all hopes might disappear with her.

For, in a world where swords and horses have names of honour, where poets speak as oracles of a shifting truth and the raiding of Saxon warriors is set to ruin Britain, perhaps it’s only the Fourth Gwenevere herself who has the real solution?

I’ve always loved Arthurian tales, or the Matter of Britain to give them their proper name, ever since I first read an adaptation when I was a little girl and just reading on my own. When I was just a teen I loved The Mists of Avalon and I read many variations and retellings in the years since. Thus a book that is titled The Fourth Gwenevere immediately grabs my attention. The Fourth Gwenevere however isn’t a straight retelling of the Arthur legend as we know it – the sword in the stone, the round table, Lancelot and Gwenevere and so on – but the tale of what happens after Arthur is taken to Avalon and the kingdom has to go on without him. And it’s not the tale you might have expected.   Continue reading »

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Leslie Mann – And Some Fell on Stony Ground

lesliemann-andsomefellonstonygroundIn June 1941, Flight Sergeant Leslie Mann, a tail gunner in a British bomber, was shot down over Germany and taken into captivity. After the war, wanting to record the experiences of the RAF’s ‘Bomber Boys’, he wrote down his inner thoughts and feelings as a fictional narrative, recently brought to the attention of Imperial War Museums (IWM).

Providing a unique glimpse into a deadly profession and traumatic time, And Some Fell on Stony Ground captures the horrors of aerial warfare, the corrosive effects of fear, and the psychological torment of the young men involved. Although presented as fiction, the book’s basis of lived experience makes it ring true – the sights, sounds, smells and above all the emotional strain are intensely evoked with a novelist’s skill, making it a fascinating historical artefact in its own right.

This compelling story is introduced and placed in context by historian Richard Overy, author of the highly acclaimed book The Bombing War (Allen Lane, 2013).

The Second World War has always held a special fascination for me both due to the important role it played in my country’s history and because my dad used to read to me from all sorts of WWII adventure novels when I was little. Since those early years I’ve read a lot of books on the topic, both fiction and non-fiction. When I was approached about reviewing And Some Fell on Stony Ground it wasn’t a hard decision to say yes, since it fit squarely in that wheelhouse and sounded fascinating. A fictional memoir – meaning that while this story was fictional, but that the experiences it was based on weren’t fictive  – the narrative follows the last active hours of an RAF pilot’s career in a close-up, hard-hitting fashion, one that does away with the shining, heroic accounts of such exploits and instead focuses on the bone-chilling fear and danger these young men faced every operation they flew.   Continue reading »

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Jared Shurin (ed.) – Irregularity

shurin-irregularityIrregularity is about the tension between order and chaos in the 17th and 18th centuries. Men and women from all walks of life dedicated themselves to questioning, investigating, classifying and ordering the natural world. They promoted scientific thought, skepticism and intellectual rigour in the face of superstition, intolerance and abuses of power. These brave thinkers dedicated themselves and their lives to the idea that the world followed rules that human endeavour could uncover… but what if they were wrong?

Irregularity is about the attempts to impose our order on nature’s chaos, the efforts both successful and unsuccessful to better know the world.

From John Harrison to Ada Lovelace, Isaac Newton to Émilie du Châtelet, these stories showcase the Age of Reason in a very different light.

Reading Irregularity, Jurassic London’s sixth full-length anthology and the second edited solo by Jared Shurin, was a strange reading experience, as I’ve read a lot of seventeenth and eighteenth century literature at university. Much of that was in the Penguin Classic editions (the ones with a black spine and a red bar at the top) and while the cover is in no way reminiscent of those, the font used for Irregularity really resembles the look of those editions. Add to that the fact that a lot of the stories are written in the same language and with the same sensibility as those classics and for a moment it seemed as if I’d traveled back in time to my student days. Thankfully, reading Irregularity in no way felt like an essay assignment, in fact it was fantastic fun.   Continue reading »

By Published Posted in fantasy, horror, review, science fiction | 1 Comment
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