Banished – Liz de Jager

Banished (The Blackhart Legacy, #1)Banished by Liz de Jager

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Absolute, unashamed gloriously good fun.

Fabulous characters and a non-stop roller-coaster of a plot. Liz manages to deftly turn scenes on their head, shifting effortlessly from action to humour and back again, with Fae princes, werewolves and assorted other beasties and creatures (not to mention the odd Elder God), all of which are there to help (or mostly hinder) our heroine Kit Blackhart along the way. Oh, and a dragon. 🙂

Classic girl-meets-boy-who-turns-out-to-be-a-Fae-prince. Cross Buffy with Harry Dresden, add a touch of Lovecraftian elder gods and simmer gently for 400 pages. Serve hot.

And this is just book one! Book two please, Liz. Quick as you like. 🙂

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Blackbirds – Chuck Wendig

Blackbirds (Miriam Black, #1)Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve been a huge fan of Chuck’s blog for many years, but this is the first book of his that I’ve read.

It’s stunning.

It grabs you by the throat from the very start, and refuses to let go. The writing is gritty, dark and visceral – wonderfully-realised, deeply interesting and complex characters doing all manner of things to each other.

Miriam Black is a great protagonist, and I love the way we get flashbacks interspersed with the main narrative. And what a story – Miriam’s special talent is to be able to see how you die – all it takes is a touch of skin on skin. So we know where the story is headed right from the start, and the players of the game are all inexorably being drawn to that point in time. Can they get off the ride? Do they *want* to?

It’s not a book for everyone. If you’ve not come across Chuck’s writing before, be warned that it’s not PG-friendly. Language and imagery is used and bruised, and is not for the faint-hearted.

But, if you’re up for the ride, strap yourself in. Fantastic stuff.

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Red Rising – Pierce Brown

Red Rising | Pierce Brown

I first heard of Red Rising through Twitter. Various people I follow were waxing lyrical about this new book. Then Liz from Liz Loves Books put it at the top of her books of 2013 and I knew that I had to add it to my list. I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy from Hodder & Stoughton and dived right in.

Nearly everyone will compare this book with The Hunger Games and there are echoes of that here, along with shades of Ender’s Game, but laced with the outright brutality and deviousness of Game of Thrones.

It’s hard to talk too much about the story without giving away too many twists and turns, but suffice it to say that it’s brilliant. It’s a veritable rollercoaster of a book – the first third is one of the best openings for a book I’ve read for a long, long time. Then it kicks up a notch and you’re swept along.

Is it a YA novel? Much like in the Hunger Games, the main characters are quite definitely young adult, but this is quite definitely much darker and far nastier than that. The huge cast of characters are beautifully realised and well-rounded, and the world-building is absolutely top-notch.

It’s one of those books that you just lose yourself in, and emerge blinking into the daylight at the far end. I devoured it over the course of a couple of days, staying up entirely too late (and getting up entirely too early) to read just one more chapter.

Fair warning though, it’s the first in a trilogy and whilst Red Rising wraps up nicely, you’re definitely left wanting more.

More now. I want book 2, now.


Bird Box – Josh Malerman

The lovely people over at @HarperVoyagerUK on Twitter were kind enough to send me an advance copy of Josh Malerman’s upcoming novel Bird Box.

Bird BoxBird Box by Josh Malerman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Post-apocalyptic fiction at its finest. In a world where something is out there, and if you see that something bad, bad things will happen, the one thing you mustn’t do is open your eyes. But Malorie will have to do just that to survive.

Absolutely loved this book. Devoured it over the course of a few hours – not something I often do, but this was a story which demanded that you read just one more chapter, just five more minutes. Beautifully tense and atmospheric, and at times it made for hard reading, but one which was the very literal definition of a page-turner.

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Books for 2014: Recommendations please!

Yesterday on Twitter I asked for book recommendations as my birthday is fast approaching and I wanted to add a few things to my amazon wishlist. I got quite a few suggestions!

Kate & Katie (@KillerReads) suggested
Innocence by Dean Koontz
A Song for the Dying by Stuart MacBride
A Burnable Book by Bruce Holsinger

MD Villiers (@MDVilliers), Alison Hennessey (@crime_queen) and @vintagebooks all recommended Long Way Home by Eva Dolan

@crime_queen and @Lizzy11268 both went for Black Chalk, by Christopher J. Yates.

@Gollancz suggested
The Wolves by Simon Ings, and
Wolfhound Century by Peter Higgins (which I started yesterday and I’m loving it so far!)

@HarperVoyagerUK recommended
The Echo by James Smythe
Bird Box by Josh Malerman
Memory of Water by Emmi Itaranta
Half a King by Joe Abercrombie

@HarperFiction had quite a list!
The Toy Taker by Luke Delaney
The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer
Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid
The Illusionists by Rosie Thomas
Road to Reckoning by Robert Lautner
Natchez Burning by Greg Iles
Treachery by SJ Parris
and The Machine by James Smythe, which I read last year and absolutely loved.

Amy Lord (@tenpennydreams) also suggested The Explorer/The Echo by James Smythe – I’ve got the latter as an ARC, but not The Explorer, so that’s on the list!

And last but by no means least, Lyndon (@LyndonMarquis) came up with this selection.
Theft: A Love Story by P Carey
Rashomon & Other Stories by Akutagawa
The Last Werewolf by G Duncan
Gates of Eden by Ethan Coen
The Things They Carried by T O’Brien
St Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by K Russel
Gentlemen of the Road by M Chabon
Twilight by William Gay
Climbers by M J Harrison
A Song for Arbonne by Guy Kay
Valdez is Coming by Elmore Leonard
Moriarty by K Newman

All of which should keep me busy for quite some time! Of course, I’ve still got a mountain of unread books courtesy of The Great Unread Book Pile, along with the three books I got for christmas, and the few I got in the Kindle 99p sale…

But, I’m a sucker for new books. What else would you recommend? I’m happy to try any genre…

Top ten Discworld books

Today’s Blog Every Day in November prompt is ’10 things’

Hmm. Now, I love a good top ten list as much as the next person and, of course, I’ve written a few in the past – my top ten books, ten simple ways to improve your photos , ten reasons why Skyfall is the best Bond movie and so on. That Skyfall post *still* gets hits 8 months on!

So, what should today’s top ten be?

Aha! Today sees the publication of Terry Pratchett’s 40th Discworld novel, Raising Steam. I’m a huge fan of Mr Pratchett’s work and have rather a lot of his books, mostly in first edition hardback[1]. Some of them aren’t even signed[2]!

So, here then I present my top ten favourite Discworld books. Not necessarily in order.

1. Pyramids
This is my all-time favourite Discworld story. It’s pretty much self-contained. It concerns the story of Pteppic[3], prince of the tiny kingdom of Djelibeybi (it took me ages to get that). Pteppic has just passed his exams at the Assassins Guild in Ankh-Morpork when he discovers that his father has died and he must return home. Pyramids happen, and we meet the greatest mathematician on the Disc, who just happens to be a camel.
It also features some wonderful quotes, my favourite of which comes from Pteppic’s friend, Arthur (a fellow student at the Assassin’s Guild), when faced with some erstwhile muggers.

The leading thief tore his fascinated gaze away from it just as he heard Arthur say, quite pleasantly, ‘This is a number two throwing knife. I got ninety-six per cent for throwing knives. Which eyeball don’t you need?’

2. Guards! Guards!

A good bookshop is just a genteel Black Hole that knows how to read.

It wouldn’t be a top ten Discworld list without featuring the City Watch. G!G! is the first of the many City Watch books and one of my favourites. The story follows a plot by a secret brotherhood, the Unique and Supreme Lodge of the Elucidated Brethren of the Ebon Night, to overthrow the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork and install a king. They summon a dragon to strike fear into the people of Ankh-Morpork.

In it we meet the Night Watch – Captain Vimes, Sergeant Colon, Corporal Nobbs, and new volunteer Carrot, a six foot tall dwarf, who to stop them, with some help from the Librarian of the Unseen University (who just happens to be an orangutan) trying to get the stolen book back. We’re introduced to the idea of L-space – that books in large quantities warp the space and time around them. All libraries are linked together through L-space. Makes perfect sense, if you think about it.

3. Mort

Although the scythe isn’t pre-eminent among the weapons of war, anyone who has been on the wrong end of, say, a peasants’ revolt will know that in skilled hands it is fearsome.

Death (a recurrning character in the Discworld books) takes an apprentice. He’s called Mort. Hijinks ensue. Brilliant stuff.

4. Lords and Ladies

In the Beginning there was nothing, which exploded.

Ah, the witches. Much as with the Watch, no list would be complete without at least one book featuring Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and Magrat Garlick. It follows directly on from Witches Abroad. so I suppose you probably should read that one first. Some young witches have been summoning elves, who we discover aren’t *quite* as nice as everyone seems to think.

5. Men at Arms

The river Ankh is probably the only river in the universe on which the investigators can chalk the outline of the corpse.

The second book concerning the City Watch. Essentially a whodunnit, in which the Watch must investigate a string of gruesome murders as well as work out who stole the the Disc’s first and only firearm…

6. Thief of Time

“Sometimes I really think people ought to have to pass a proper exam before they’re allowed to be parents. Not just the practical, I mean.”

The Auditors of Reality commission a perfect clock which will imprison Time (the character) and therefore freeze time on the Discworld. Death sends his granddaughter Susan Sto-Helit to stop them, with the help of the Death of Rats and Quoth, the raven. I love Quoth.

We also meet the History Monks (aka The Order of Wen the Eternally Surprised), a highly secretive religious organisation who maintain Discworld history up in the Ramtops mountains. Death rounds up the other Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Hijinks, as per usual, ensue.

7. Night Watch

He hated being thought of as one of those people that wore stupid ornamental armour. It was gilt by association.

The City Watch meet the History Monks. Sam Vimes is sent back in time and has to become his hero and former mentor to fix a temporal anomaly…

8. Reaper Man

Five exclamation marks, the sure sign of an insane mind.

The Auditors decide that Death isn’t doing his job properly and send him off to live as a normal person. As there is no longer a death, the life force of dead humans starts to build up. Snow globes happen, along with the usual hijinks.

9. A Hat Full of Sky
This is possibly a controversial entry in the list. Not everyone likes Tiffany Aching, a young girl who is learning to be a witch. I’m rather fond of her as a character though. It’s aimed at a slightly younger audience, but is still great fun. We get to meet the Witches again, and the Nac Mac Feegles, who we first saw in The Wee Free Men. Great fun.

10. I Shall Wear Midnight
And another Tiffany Aching book. Told you I liked them. This is the fourth one featuring our young witch.

There are some which I’ve not enjoyed quite so much. Monstrous Regiment was fairly average, and I’ve heard quite enough of Moist von bloody Lipwig, thankyouverymuch. Slightly disappointed to see that the latest book is also a von Lipwig one, but it’s got steam trains in. And, as we all know, steam trains are awesome.

Interestingly[4], I was asked recently which Discworld book you should start with. Not the same list as above. Maybe I’ll save that for another day…

So, there we have it. My top 10 Discworld books. I’m sure I’ve missed some favourites in there, and reserve the right to change my mind at a moment’s notice. Will Raising Steam make the list?

Are you a Pratchett fan? What are your favourites?

[1] I wish I could remember who I loaned my first print, first edition copy of Lords & Ladies to. If it’s you, can I have it back? Ta.
[2] if you’re a Pratchett fan, you’ll understand that this is very very unusual.
[3] which is why you’ll sometimes see Terry referred to as Pterry. Us Pratchett fans love an in-joke almost as much as we love a good footnote.
[4] to me, anyway. YMMV.

Review: My Criminal World

My Criminal World
My Criminal World by Henry Sutton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Really enjoyed this – interesting idea too, a struggling crime writer getting caught up in his work a little too much. I liked the way you got snippets of the fictional author’s book throughout the main story, and got to experience some of the frustrations of being a writer, seeing how it all pans out. Great fun.

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