jacey: (blue eyes)
Dr Who - Engines of WarFeaturing a battle-weary Doctor as depicted by John Hurt, i.e. the War Doctor, who only had a very brief outing on TV in Day of the Doctor. I expected more from this because the blurb promises: ‘Searching for answers the Doctor meets 'Cinder', a young Dalek hunter. Their struggles to discover the Dalek plan take them from the ruins of Moldox to the halls of Gallifrey, and set in motion a chain of events that will change everything. And everyone.’ Like many spin off books it has to leave the main character more or less reset for the next book, so there's action, but no insight into the War Doctor's final act, which was what I thought I was going to get. This reminds me why I tend not to read franchise books. The authors don't get free rein to go where (if it were an independent book) the characters need to go. Well written as far as it goes.
jacey: (blue eyes)
La La LandHonestly, if you want to see a 'good old Hollywood musical like they used to make, skip La La Land and buy a video of Singing in the rain instead. I'm not sure how LLL got all the hype - well, actually I am. Hollywood loves a self-referential movie. My cinebuddy H and I took a friend to cheer her up. Unfortunately I had to wake her up halfway through this as she was starting to snore. That's how riveting La La Land is. The singing is lacklustre, the songs both tiresomely repetitive and intantly forgettable at the same time. The story... well there isn't one really. Aspiring actress meets aspiring jazz musician. The ending? Somewhat downbeat, I thought. And it's about 30 minutes too long. Altogether it hasn't got much going for it. Kudos to Ryan Gosling's piano playing. They claim that the onscreen fingers are really his and that he learned jazz piano especially for the movie.
jacey: (blue eyes)
AssassinsCreedWith plot holes you could drive a bus through this game-to-movie outing featuring Michael Fassbender in a 'shirt-off' role is what it is. I don't play the game (or any games) so whether it will suit game players who already know this world remains to be seen, but as a one-off cinematic event the action fairly rips along. There is - as you would imagine - a lot of posing on rooftops, hand to hand fighting and a plot with Jeremy Irons (always worth watching) as the villain of the piece. There's a cameo by Charlotte Rampling, and I'm always reminded that someone once famed for her looks has matured to be a fearsome older woman. Of course she does only get cameo roles now, but she acts her socks off in them. Worth watching? Yes if relentless action is your thing.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Duke of DeceptionAquilla Knox is still unmarried after five London seasons, largely because she’s developed a way of deterring prospective husbands. She doesn’t want to marry - she’s seen what marriage can be – but a fifth season in London gives her the chance to get away from home. Edward Bishop, Earl of Sutton, is in need of a wife, but no one has yet fulfilled his list of requirements. He needs someone who can keep a secret. To be honest neither secret is desperately painful, but the two prospective partners are kept dancing around each other in an amusing way.

The cover is boring (so similar to so many others), but though it's fluffy, some of the dialogue carries the story well.
jacey: (blue eyes)
I did well this year – almost a hundred books read from cover to cover. I’m not counting books I bought and used for research because I don’t tend to read them in linear fashion, I cherrypick sections and information. The only non-fiction on this list has been read cover to cover. You can find full reviews of everything on this list at my Goodreads account or on my blog here. Filter by booklog 2016. (Note the numbers may not correspond exactly.)

So what have I been reading in 2016? Well, since I’ve also been busy writing I’ve tried to read books that haven’t interefered with my writing train-of-thought-at-the-time. Mostly I’ve succeeded. Highlights of 2016 have been:

  • the discovery of Jodi Taylor’s St. Marys books, wacky but with serious stakes

  • Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom duo and the rest of her Grisha books

  • Gaie Sebold’s Babylon Steel novels which I’ve been meaning to read for a few years and finally managed it

  • Ann Aguirre’s final Sirantha Jax book which i kept putting off reading because I didn’t want the series to end

  • catching up with Benedict Jacka’s Alex Verus novels at long last – now i can’t wait for the next one

  • Sean Danker’s The Admiral

  • finally finding a Zelazny that wows me. (A Night in the Lonesome October, narrated by Jack the Ripper’s dog.)

  • reading more Georgette Heyer Regency romances – always a delight

Here’s my full reading list.


  1. Patricia Briggs: Fire Touched – Mercy Thompson #9

  2. Andy Weir: The Martian.

  3. Lois McMaster Bujold: Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen – Vorkosi #16

  4. Paul Cornell: The Witches of Lychford

  5. Seanan McGuire: Every Heart a Doorway

  6. Julie Kagawa: The Iron King – The Iron Fey #1

  7. David Tallerman: Patchwerk

  8. Jim C Hines: Codex Born – Magic ex-Libris #2

  9. Benedict Jacka: Taken – Alex Verus #3

  10. Adrian Tchaikovsky: The Tiger and the Wolf – Echoes of the Fall #1

  11. Zen Cho: Sorcerer to the Crown – Sorcerer Royal #1

  12. Emma Newman: Between Two Thorns – Split Worlds #1

  13. Veronica Roth: Insurgent – Divergent #2

  14. Liesel Schwarz: A Conspiracy of Alchemists  – Chronicles of Light and Shadow #1

  15. Ann Aguirre: Endgame – Sirantha Jax #6

  16. Leigh Bardugo: Six of Crows – Six of Crows #1

  17. Anne Gracie: The Perfect Rake – Merridew Sisters #1

  18. Georgette Heyer: The Masqueraders

  19. Jim Butcher: The Aeronaut’s Windlass – Cinder Spires #1

  20. Diana Gabaldon: Virgins – Outlander (novella)

  21. Rachael Miles: Chasing the Heiress – The Muses Salon #2

  22. Tim Powers: Down and Out in Purgatory

  23. Guy Haley: The Emperor’s Railroad – Dreaming Cities #1

  24. Tim Lebbon: Pieces of Hate with Dead Man’s Hand

  25. Sarah Hegger: The Bride Gift

  26. Gaie Sebold: Babylon Steel

  27. Jodi Taylor: Just one Damn Thing After Another – Chronicles of St Mary’s #1

  28. Jodi Taylor: A Symphony of Echoes – Chronicles of St Mary’s #2

  29. Jodi Taylor: A Second Chance – Chronicles of St Mary’s #3

  30. Jodi Taylor: A Trail Through Time – Chronicles of St Mary’s #4

  31. Jodi Taylor: The Very First Damn Thing – Chronicles of St Mary’s 0.5

  32. Jodi Taylor: When a Child is Born – Chronicles of St Mary’s Short Story 2.5

  33. Jodi Taylor: Roman Holiday – Chronicles of St Mary’s Short Story 3.5

  34. Jodi Taylor: No Time Like the Past – Chronicles of St Mary’s #5

  35. Jodi Taylor: Ships and Stings and Wedding Rings – Chronicles of St Mary’s Short Story 6.5

  36. Jodi Taylor: What Could Possibly Go Wrong? – Chronicles of St Mary’s #6

  37. Jodi Taylor: Christmas Present – Chronicles of St Mary’s Short Story 4.5

  38. Jodi Taylor: Lies, Damned Lies and History – Chronicles of St Mary’s #7

  39. Joe Hill: The Fireman

  40. Benedict Jacka: Chosen – Alex Verus #4

  41. Lisa Tuttle: The Somnambulist and the Psychic Thief

  42. Peter S. Beagle: Summerlong

  43. Tom Lloyd: Stranger of Tempest (Couldn’t finish)

  44. Georgette Heyer: The Nonesuch

  45. Benedict Jacka: Hidden – Alex Verus #5

  46. Isabella Barclay: A Bachelor Establishment

  47. Walter Jon Williams: Voice of the Whirlwind

  48. Alexandra Bracken: The Passenger

  49. Eileen Putman: The Dastardly Duke – Love in Disguise #2

  50. Lois McMaster Bujold: Penric & the Shaman – Penric & Desemona #2

  51. Georgette Heyer: The Quiet Gentleman

  52. Karen Tuft: The Earl’s Betrothal

  53. Sally MacKenzie: What to do with a Duke – The Spinster House #1

  54. Julie Daines: Willowkeep

  55. Kevin Hearne: The Purloined Poodle – Oberon’s Meaty Mysteries

  56. Willow Palecek: City of Wolves

  57. Georgette Heyer: Sylvester

  58. Georgette Heyer: Devil’s Cub

  59. Georgette Heyer: Regency Buck

  60. Jodi Taylor: The Great St Mary’s Day Out – Chronicles of St Mary’s Short Story

  61. Regina Scott: The Husband Campaign – The Master Matchmakers #3

  62. C.E.Murphy: House of Cards – The Negotiator #2

  63. Allison Butler: The Healer – Borderland Brides #1

  64. Sean Danker: The Admiral – Evagardian #1

  65. Jodi Taylor: The Nothing Girl

  66. Cassandra Rose Clarke: The Wizard’s Promise

  67. Jodi Taylor: Little Donkey

  68. Donna Lea Simpson: Lord St Claire’s Angel

  69. Roger Zelazny: A Night in the Lonesome October

  70. Georgette Heyer: The Talisman Ring

  71. Alastair Reynolds: Revenger

  72. Janis Susan May: Miss Morrison’s Second Chance

  73. Regina Jeffers: Angel Comes to Devil’s Keep

  74. Leigh Bardugo: Crooked Kingdom – Six of Crows #2

  75. Leigh Bardugo: Shadow and Bone – The Grisha #1

  76. Leigh Bardugo: Siege and Storm – The Grisha #2

  77. Leigh Bardugo: Ruin and Rising – The Grisha #3

  78. Sean Danker: Free Space – Evagardian #2

  79. C.C. Aune: The Ill-Kept Oath

  80. Den Patrick: The Boy with the Porcelain Blade – Erebus Sequence #1

  81. Julia Quinn: The Duke and I – Bridgertons #1

  82. Benedict Jacka: Veiled – Alex Verus #6

  83. John Scalzi: Miniatures – The Very Short Fiction of John Scalzi

  84. Julia Quinn: The Viscount who Loved Me – Bridgertons #2

  85. Benedict Jacka: Burned – Alex Verus #7

  86. Lois McMaster Bujold: Penric’s Mission – Penric #3

  87. Bianca Blythe: A Rogue to Avoid – Matchmaking for Wallflowers #2

  88. Lois McMaster Bujold: Penric’s Demon – Penric #1

  89. Gaie Sebold: Dangerous Gifts – Babylon Steel #2

  90. Nick Wood: Azanian Bridges

  91. Genevieve Cogman: The Burning Page – Invisible Library #3

  92. Jodi Taylor: My Name is Markham – Chronicles of St Mary’s short story


  1. David McKie: What’s in a Surname

  2. Allison Kinney: Hood

  3. Nisi Shawl & Cynthia Ward: Writing the Other

  4. Susanne Alleyn: Medieval Underpants and Other Blunders

  5. Louise Allen: Walks Through Regency London

jacey: (blue eyes)
PassengersNot what I expected at all, but enjoyable and interesting for all that, if a little low-key. When there is a glitch on board an automated passenger ship carrying five thousand cryo-passengers heading out to a colony, one passenger, Jim Preston (Chris Pratt), is woken up 90 years too early and has no means of resetting his cryo capsule. He has a whole luxury liner to himself, but his only companion is Arthur, a cybernetic bartender (an eerie Michael Sheen) unable to leave his place behind the bar. Eventually, after a year of loneliness, he gives in to the temptation to wake another passenger, Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence), a writer. He thinks he knows her after reading her writing, and believes that they will be soulmates.

It all goes well at first, though of course he hasn't told her that he's deliberately woken her... but then the ship starts to glitch a little and then seriously malfunction. A third person wakes, luckily, this time, a crew member. The three of them have to save the ship...

But that's not everything - the chatty android bartender has let slip Jim's big secret to Aurora, i.e. that he woke her deliberately and scuppered her life plans

This is as much a study of the effects of loneliness and a relationship which progresses in extreme isolation. It could be set in any closed environment, but having to save the ship adds a touch of drama  and tension to the otherwise fairly static plot.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Rogue OneRogue One - very enjoyable. In the space battles they used archive footage of Red Leader and Gold Leader from the original Star Wars Movie, which was great for continuity. Some interesting CGI to create supporting characters from the right time period. (Actors long since gone!) Some of it (Peter Cushing) was a bit 'uncanny valley' but largely it worked. There's been a lot of online discussion about whether they should simply have recast characters like Tarkin, with opinion divided. I didn't mind the CGI. The whole thing was visually excellent, of course, and there's a new robot K-2SO voiced by Alan Tudyk. The plot held together reasonably well. It's a standalone story set just before the events in A New Hope, in which our heroes go after the plans for the Death Star. This is a one-off story, with one-off main characters. We kinda knew how it would go from knowing the status at the beginning of  A New Hope, so no complaints from me on that score. The ending was wholly appropriate and bringing in a fravourite character at the end was a great 'lifter'. Felicity Jones is good as Jyn Erso. Only complaint, why have two actors who looked so physically similar? I'm not that good with facial recognition and it took me a while to sort out Bodhi (Riz Ahmed) and Cassian (Diego Luna) in the early scenes.

I write this on 27th December, the day that Carrie Fisher's death has been announced. RIP Princess Leia. Taken far too young.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Voice of the WhirlwindEtienne Steward is a beta, a clone activated when his alpha is killed - murdered. Alpha Steward paid the insurance to store his clone then failed to update the memories. Beta Steward's memories stop fifteen years before Alpha Steward was killed. He knows nothing about the bitter Artefact War, fought over the loot on a deserted alien planet. he knows nothing of the aliens themselves, whose return put an end to the fighting between policorps, but not to the animosity.

Beta Steward, penniless, accepts a shady job from Griffith, a soldier who fought on Sheol in the Artefact War, and is sucked into a little not-quite-legal work on the side when he eventually gets his wish and goes back into space as an engineer on a cargo vessel plying its trade between stations in the solar system.

Things get complicated when Steward is taken to be his own alpha and is accused of murder. Getting more out of the interrogation than he gives, Steward begins to add things up and piece together what his alpha was doing to get himself killed. There's a nicely twisty plot. I did wonder whether the alpha was actually dead, but credit to the author that the plot didn't go where I expected it to.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Bachelor EstablishmanrIsabella Barclay is the pen name of Jodi Taylor, the writer of the St Marys historical time-travel books. This time she's written a straight historical. This is a Regency romance with a difference. Both protagonists have been round the block a few times and have given up on love. Neither is in the first flush of youth. Yay for middle-aged romantics.

Elinor Bascombe, a middle aged widow with a penchant for hard riding, almost tramples her new neighbour, Lord Ryde, while taking an illegal shortcut across his land. Ryde has neglected his property for years, taking whatever rents it yields while putting no effort into caring for the land. He's planning to do the same again and go straight back off on his adventure-seeking travels.

Elinor and Ryde don't exactly hit it off, but when Elinor is shot it's expedient that Ryde takes her into his decrepit and distinctly bachelor home. From that point he hardly knows what's hit him. Even from her sick bed Elinor (and her army of loyal servants) can manage a household, and Ryde finds himself thoroughly managed without actually realising it. The characters strike sparks right from the opening and a thoroughly believable romance develops without the usual breathless hearts and flowers. The shooter is still out there and after a second attempt the couple have to work out which one of them is the intended target and why.

I really enjoyed this somewhat unusual take on regency romance.
jacey: (blue eyes)
HiddenAfter the events in Chosen Alex, a magical diviner, is still trying to reassemble his little family of mages and apprentices. With his dark past now revealed, he’s disappointed, though not surprised that both Anne and Sonder want nothing to do with him. Sonder can look after himself, but Anne is vulnerable. When Alex’s apprentice, Luna, persuades him to hold out an olive branch, he’s soundly rebuffed, but hardly any time later, what he fears most of all happens. Anne disappears, probably kidnapped by a dark mage. The Council doesn’t want to know, so Alex together with Sonder (under protest), Variam and his new ‘master’ – female -- one of the council’s police equivalent, decide to take on the job. There’s also the undercurrent that Richard Drakh, Alex’s one time master and a very dark mage, indeed, is back. That’s not something that Alex really wants to contemplate, but as they get closer to Anne he realises that he might have to.

Another good instalment in this excellent urban fantasy series set in London.
jacey: (blue eyes)
NonesuchSir Waldo Hawkridge is possessed of everything his younger cousins envy: a large fortune, physical prowess and good looks, excellent taste, and the reputation of being a Corinthian, noted for his sporting endeavours. It hardly seems fair to them, therefore, when an eccentric uncle leaves Broom Hall in the West Riding of Yorkshire, to the man who already has everything - the Nonesuch of the title. His cousin Julian is especially upset, being short of funds, mostly because money trickles through his fingers like water. Waldo's new inheritance is dilapidated and hardly palatial, but when he travels north to assess it, he discovers the neighbourhood buzzing with excitement. The Underhills together with their spoilt, beautiful niece, Tiffany Wield, a soon-to-be heiress, and her impoverished but genteel companion Miss Ancilla Trent, are the inhabitants of the other house of some consequence in the area and Waldo (with his cousin George) quickly achieve visiting terms with them. For a time George is dazzled by Tiffany, but Waldo begins to realise that the quietly sensible Miss Trent has very commendable qualities.

Waldo is admirably but quietly persistent. Despite his reputation he's not ostentatious. (Good heavens, he drives a curricle rather than a high-perch phaeton, even though his horses are 'proper good 'uns'.) Tiffany is somewhat one-dimensionally selfish. The cousins, George and Julian are polar opposites. George is solidly dependable and even Julian, though not endowed with vast intelligence, is occasionally grasping, but not an utter cad.

The story unfolds in typical Heyer fashion and ends where you expect it to end. On the way it's a delightful, if frothy read. Exactly what you expect (and want) from a Heyer Regency romance.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Burning PageThis is the third adventure of librarian Irene and her assistant Kai, a dragon prince with two forms, also working for the Library. The library itself is an interdimensional repository of books in all their versions from the many worlds that are linked to its portals. Alberich, ex-librarian gone bad, is threatening the Library with total destruction and Irene and Kai, together with Vale a Holmsian ‘great detective’ in a steampunky alternate London, and his Scotland Yard friend, Inspector Singh are trying to stop him with occasional help and hindrance from a couple of Fae met in previous books un the series. The events in Book 2 are taking their toll, on Vale and Kai in particular. Expect explosions, assassination attempts and general mayhem.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Azanian BridgesSet in a present day South Africa where Apartheid was never abolished and the regime oppressed all the population, but particularly the black communities. Police checks; demands for papers; threats; casual, unthinking cruelty, and systematic institutional oppression. Sibusiso is an intelligent young black man who gets the opportunity to go to the city to go to college. At a demonstration he witnesses his friend killed and the resulting depression sees him admitted to a psychiatric hospital where he meets psychiatrist, Martin  who, together with his friend, Dan has invented an empathy machine. It’s not exactly a thought reader, but close enough for the authorities to be very interested. Martin wants to use it to make white South Africa empathise with black South Africa and reduce the chasm between them. The authorities see it as an interrogation machine. Sibusiso becomes Martin’s test subject but when he steals the machine in behalf of the Black African resistance movement he has to go one the run. This is told in first person from both Sibusiso’s and Martin’s points of view in alternating chapters, which works well in this instance. It’s intriguing and the taste of a dystopian South Africa feels terrifyingly real. The black South African experience comes over well, partly because of liberal use of isiZulu language and partly because of Sibusiso’s ‘voice’. Martin is a sympathetic character, lost in the system, white but also afraid of the authorities. He seems to learn more from his encounter with Sibusiso than Sibusiso does from him. The ending is entirely within keeping—sadly.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Fantastic_BeastsRight off the bat I'll say that Eddie Redmayne is not generally an actor I'd pay to watch just because it's him, but he makes a pretty good stab at the deferential Newt Scamander, champion of strange magical creatures. Newt arrives in New York with a suitcase full of magical beasts. (Yes, like hermione's handbag, Newt's suitcase holds a veritable zoo.) Unfortunately the American magicians are a bit uptight about magical beasts - in fact they've more or less banned them altogether. So when one of newt's beasts escapes he's immediately arrested by Demoted Auror, Tina Goldstein. At the offices of the Magical Gongress of the USA (MACUSA) we encounter senior auror Percival Graves who dismisses Tina out of hand. Back at Tina's aprtment with  a no-maj (and American Muggle) more beasts escape and the hunt is on. This is all complicated by Mary Lou Barebone, the head of the New Salem Philanthropic Society, who claims that witches and wizards are real and dangerous, and something with an incrdible amout of power that seems to be wreaking havoc. Graves is after the power. Newt is after the creatures. It all gets terribly complicated, but, of course, is sorted in the end. And the ending ties in to what we know of a certain magician whose name was linked with Albus Dumbledore's darker past.

There's a lot riding on this film. A Harry Potter spin off without Hogwarts and without the Boy Wizard. Can the franchise reboot itself? It largely carries it off, and Potter fans who've been with the Potterverse from the beginning will not mind the darker tone. Does it succeed? Mostly. Yes, though I think it might be easily forgotten unless there's going to be a whole string of Fantastic Beast movies or further Potterverse spinoffs. (Which seems likely.)
jacey: (blue eyes)
Dangerous GiftsI like Gaie Sebold’s writing style. It grabs attention and has a good character voice. In this case the voice belongs to Babylon Steel, whorehouse owner in Scalentene, whore, part-time bodyguard and one-time avatar of the god of soldiers and sex. Now if that’s not a great resume, I don’t know what is. This is the second outing for Babylon. In the first one she rescued a young woman, designated as the Itnunnacklish, designed to bring together the Gudain and the Ikinchli – two races of Incandress where civil war is brewing. In this book Babylon is propositioned by Darask Fain of Scalentene’s Diplomatic Section, (spies etc) – no not in that way – she’d probably go for that. Fain wants her to go with the Itnunnacklish, Enthemmerlee, back to Incandress as her bodyguard, just until all the ceremonies are over. Babylon has severe misgivings. Her gut tells her not to go, but one of her girls, Lainey, has mortgaged the whorehouse to the hilt and unwisely invested the cash in a cargo of very expensive silk which has to make it through troubled Incandress without a hitch, or everything Babylon calls home is lost. Besides, she likes Enthemmerlee. Unfortunately she has to leave Chief Bitternut behind. He’s a werewolf in charge of policing Scalentine, and Babylon is realising that he’s become more than just a customer. In addition to bodyguarding Fain also wants Babylon to do a bit of spying on the side and to smarten up Enthemmerlee’s own house guard. Not a tough job, then. Babylon is once more plunged into mayhem, but everything comes together finally, when a plot is revealed. Highly recommended.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Rogue to AvoidAh, sadly this may be a book to avoid. The good bits first. It’s amusing, nicely paced and has a pretty standard Regency romance plot. That’s fine. I don’t read Regency romance for innovation. It’s purely escapist fiction for me. Cordelia, the daughter of a very rich duke has been embarrassed by three broken engagements – all a bit hard to swallow when she’s aiming for perfection. The ton is starting to titter. Gerard doesn’t give a stuff about the ton. He’s up to his ears in debt thanks to his late mother’s gambling loans (from Cordelia’s dad) and the duke has sent a thug after him to chop off the odd finger or two unless he pays up. Fleeing from the thug Gerard comes across Cordelia. One thing leads to another and before you know where you are he’s asked her to marry him. Embarrased to make it four broken engagements Cordelia has agreed. Things go from bad to worse as the thug gets instructions to kill Gerard and the couple are running up and down the country trying to get married and avoid being murdered.

I could probably have swallowed this book whole, but for the author’s sense of history. I’ve come across historical inaccuracies in Regency Romance before, of course. (There was the author whose heroine ate cold popovers for breakfast… ouch!) Unfortunately there were a couple of things in this that were so obvious I was immediately jerked right out of the book. Describing the hero’s hair colour as espresso, some fifty years before espresso was invented is bad enough, but having Regency characters referencing Scott of the Antarctic just gobsmacked me. If you don’t care about obvious historical bloopers then the rest of the book is fine. Me? I guess I’m a bit too pedantic about these things. Sorry.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Penric's MissionPenric and his resident demon, Desdemona, have moved positions. They are no longer in the court of the archdivine in Martensbridge. On her death Penric has been sent into the service of a duke. Penric and Desdemona are sent on a secret mission to contact a general who is about to defect. Unfortunately it's a put-up job. The general never intended to defect to Penric's people in the first place and penric is caught up on a trap for the general, brought down by manufactured evidence. So upon arrival Penric is thrown in jail, not a nice, cosy straw-carpeted jail cell, but an oubliette. The general - outmanoeuvred politically - is arrested, blinded, and sent home in disgrace, possibly to die. When Penric finally escapes and finds the general he finds that his simple courier job has become much more. Can he heal the general's eyes (one of Desdemona's previous hosts was a physician) and if he does, can he bring the general round to defecting? I like Penric. His solutions are always positive and in a violent world he truly seeks to do no harm. A good addition to the Penric cycle of novellas in the world of the Five Gods.

In writing this booklog I realised I'd missed book logging the first Bujold/Penric book, so here's a retrospective.

Penric's DemonPenric's Demon
This is the first Penric novella. Penric is a bright eyed innocent. On the way to his betrothal he stops to help and elderly lady and his life suddenly changes. She's a temple divine. Her avowed god is The Bastard, 'master of all disasters out of season." She carries a demon inside her. When she dies, the demon makes a jump, and that's how Penric, totally unprepared, acquires a demon who has the memories and knowledge of twelve previous hosts, and a mind of her own. This novella is bascally how Penric and his demon form a relationship, uneasy at first, and Penric joins the clergy. In the world of the Five Gods, religion is a practical subject raher than theoretical. The gods can, and frequently do, make their presence felt. This is a good set-up novella, in the world of the Five Gods where Curse of Chalion (my favourite book) and Paladin of Souls are set.
jacey: (blue eyes)
ArrivalThis movie got good reviews. It was labelled as 'cerebral', which closely translated into my understanding means 'no car chases'. That indeed is the case. There are no car chases (thank goodness) but plenty of tension. When twelve alien ships hang in the air over various points around the earth, twelve different governments rush to get their best translators on the job of 'talking' with the aliens, despite them having nothing in common on which to base language. It's an interesting problem. Linguistics professor Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is called in, alongside physicist/mathematician Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner). Based on Ted Chiang’s 1998 short story “Story of Your Life” this is a smart and thoughtful movie, upping the stakes as other nations' interactions with their alien vessels are conducted with varying degrees of success (or failure). Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner are well cast. There is some wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey stuff going on which only makes sense in retrospect. I thought there was a big plot-hole and then I had a lovely ah-ha moment. Recommended.
jacey: (blue eyes)
BurnedAlex is really up against it this time. All his enemies are dogpiling on top of him and his friends. When the Light Council—for no good reason that anyone, including Alex, can figure out—issues a kill order, his first thought is to protect his apprentice Luna and Anne and Variam who are considered to be his ‘dependents. He’s got a week before it all comes into force (even Caldera doesn’t know about it, yet), but though that may be a long time in politics, it’s a short time when he has to play nice with other mages to even stand a chance of survival. There’s an artefact that the Council wants (which is also wanted by Alex’s ex boss, Dark Mage Richard Drakh) and if Alex can get it, he might get a reprieve. Richard is not on the page in this book but he’s an ever present menace. Lines are being drawn and Alex is about to be on the wrong side of them from whichever angle you look. This is a good addition to the Alex Verus series and the ending raises the level of the game considerably.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Viscount Who Loved MeJulia Quinn's sequence of books about the Bridgertons takes the matrimonial foibles of each alphabetically-named Bridgerton sibling in turn. The first book featured Daphne, oldest girl but fourth sibling. In it we met Anthony who was pigheaded and hot tempered, attempting to shove a sharp spoke into the wheel of matrimonial bliss for his sister and his one time best friend from school.

Now Anthony gets his own book.

It's interesting to see a character broadened out. Not an entirely lovable character in the first book, we now see something of what was behind his actions. He's got a secret. It's a little nuts, but he believes it implicitly. Because the recent males in the Bridgerton family have died young, he thinks that will be his fate, too. After all, his father was killed by a bee sting. If something like that can fell so great a man, then what chance does Anthony have. As a result of seeing his mother's life as a widow, he determines that though he must marry and produce an heir, he shouldn't marry for love. He's not afraid of death, but he is afraid of leaving someone he loves to face widowhood.

Bonkers, right? Of course. He's devoted the last ten years of his life to being a principled rake (his conquests have always been women who knew what they were getting into) but now he's looking for an innocent. He draws up a list of the attributes his wife should have and picks out a very pretty miss. Only then does he discover that her older, plainer and much stronger sister is determined to protect her from suitors such as him. Sparks fly when he meets Kate...

Quinn injects humour and snappy dialogue into the Regency romance and this is a perfectly diverting piece of fluff.
jacey: (blue eyes)
MiniaturesI'm not generally a great reader of short stories, but these are short stories by John Scalzi. OK, I thought - I'll give it a go. I'm glad I did. Verging  on the humourous (mostly) there are stories here about sentient youghourt ruling the world, a superhero booking agent, complaints form smart-applicances, absurdities of human/alien interaction and a selection of all the alt. history ways Hiltler might die. All this and a poem for Penelope. Highly recommended.
jacey: (blue eyes)
VeiledThe sixth adventure for Camden’s mage-on-the-edge. Alex Verus is horribly aware that his old master, dark mage Richard Drakh, has returned. He and his group of friends (Anne, Luna and Variam) have been working under cover for Talisid to try and expose Richard’s plans, but they haven’t made much headway. There’s a lot of mage-politicking going on in this book. The Council (light mages) don’t trust Alex, so he’s stuck between the proverbial rock and hard place, To protect himself and his crew Alex volunteers his services to Caldera and the Keepers (who police magicians) but soon finds out that even the simplest of investigations can go south in a heartbeat. What seems to be a routine enquiry is connected to a larger enquiry… and it all leads back to Richard Drakh (though he stays completely veiled in this book, but the potential threat is ever present). This is a good addition to the series. The tension is ramping up. Alex has choices, but no good ones. Does he choose ‘bad’ or ‘worse’? I’ve already got the next one in the series loaded up on my Kindle.
jacey: (blue eyes)
quill&booksIt's that time of year again. November is NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month. It's really aimed at those who have trouble finishing a novel because the target is to write 50,000 words in a month from 1st to 30th November. You're supposed to start from scratch (maybe having made a plan beforehand, or maybe not) and then just keep ploughing onwards. If you can manage 1,667 words per day, you can reach that target.

There's quite a buzz when everyone competes to finish the wordcount and, for me, some incentive to pace myself alongside all the NaNoWriMo folks. Yes, I know I've proved I can finish a novel. There are three on bookstore shelves already, and one more due out in January 2017, but it's still quite an undertaking, especially when you're writing to a deadline.

I've started November with 20,000 words written on Nimbus, the third novel in my psi-tech space opera series. By the end of the month I hope to have 70,000 words. That will take me roughly to halfway throiugh the first draft. My previous two psi-tech books are 171,000 and 173,000 words each, but if I can finish the first draft in 130,000 to 150,000 words that gives me a little room to add some more once my editor (Hugo-winning Sheila Gilbert from DAW) makes suggestions. So far, Sheila's suggestions have always led to the addition of words, not the subtraction. DAW likes long books.

I'm hoping to have at least 100,000 words by Christmas and a complete first draft by the end of January. After that there's the whole editing processes to go through (content edit/edits, copy edit and preaf rooding). The provisional publication date is October 2017.

So, how's it going so far?


It's been a slow start because of conflicting work from the day job, but I'm now at 22,250. My starting point was 19.836, so my total for three days is  2414 words. Day 4 - today - is not over yet.

So off I go to bash out more words on my keyboard. Wish me luck.

Silverwolf final cvr sm

Empire of Dust - final_websize Crossways-cvr-400
jacey: (blue eyes)
Duke and IDaphne Bridgerton is blessed (or cursed) with four strapping brothers. Unfortunately she's everyone's pal and so in her second London season she's still on the shelf. Her only suitors are totally unsuitable. Simon Basset, having spent the last several years abroad to keep clear of his hateful father has sworn never to marry or produce an heir for the dukedom. Unfortunately the ambitious mamas of the ton still see him as fair game for their darling daughters.

Simon and Daphne never intended to fall in love when they concocted a plan to make it seem as though they'd formed an attachment. With a duke sniffing at her heels Daff suddently becomes remarkably attractive to plenty of other suitors, and with Daff rumoured as his intended Simon can avoid advances from prospective mothers in law.

Unfortunately being caught in a compromising situation by one of Daff's brothers the pair are more or less forced into marriage. They love each other, so what's the problem? There's the small matter of Simon vowing never to produce an heir.

This is a good-hearted and good humoured book. No it's not a comedy, but the couple really do care for each other and they laugh together - a lot. Quinn's dialogue is snappy and the book is charming. I'll certainly look out for more of her Bridgerton books.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Dr StrangeI loved this! I'm not a comics reader, so I went into it with no preconceptions at all, and nothing to compare it against. It's an origin story - starting us off down another tributary which will eventually join up with the big river that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This time it's an earthly superhero who taps into magic. That works for me.

The visuals are great. Stephen Strange's transformation works. He goes from brilliant, but arrogant surgeon, to broken man, to someone with a deeper understanding of the supernatural world and a new direction in life. When Strange's hands are almost destroyed in a completely avoidable car crash, modern medicine fails him. A surgeon without his hands is nothing, so he goes searching for alternative therapies, ending up in Nepal being taught by the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton at her bald best) to tap into magical energy. Chiwetel Ejiofor has a strong supporting role as Mordo and Benedict Wong (as Wong) adds a dash of welcome humour. But, of course, Benedict Cumberbatch is the show's star and he makes an appealing Strange. I'm not a Cumberbatch fangirl, but he's a good actor, well-cast.

Having been introduced to the world of sorcery, Strange has to decide where his path lies, when Kaecilius, a renegade former disciple of the Ancient One, makes a bid for world domination. That kind of thing rarely ends well when there's a superhero-in-the-making around.

Highly recommended.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Boy witrh the Porcelain BladeI’d heard very good things about this book, so I was a little disappointed that it didn’t live up to its hype. There was much to admire, but also things that rankled. I’ve lost track of the number of times Lucien, our hero, was knocked unconscious, for instance. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

Set in the sprawling castle of Demesne in the kingdom of Landfall, Lucien is an Orfano, one of the despised and feared, yet privileged Orfani (orphans, geddit?) who are all deformed in some way—born different—but not imbued with any special powers as far as I can tell. Raised in the castle and given the best education in all things, including martial arts, the Orfani are neither one thing nor the other. Set against each other by the system of annual testing, their lives are constantly in danger, from each other as well as from factions who should be protecting them (the mysterious Major Domo and one particularly vicious teacher).

Lucien’s story is told in two separate timelines: from his fateful testing at eighteen and what follows, interspersed with chapters from his childhood, filling us in on the backstory. He’s a lonely little boy who grows up into a lonely young man. He’s desperately concerned with his deformity (lack of external ears, though it doesn’t seem to affect his hearing). Much of this book is concerned with the origins of the Orfani and what Lucien discovers causes an eventual confrontation with the mad king and his Major Domo. The alternating chapters don’t really work for me. Breaking the forward narrative to leap back to a childhood incident pulled me out of the story. I could have done without the flashbacks altogether. Each one made a point or added information, but this could have been covered by a brief summary.

The setting is vaguely Italian Renaissance, delivered mostly via the names and the occasional swear word, yet nothing seems to exist beyond the island kingdom of Landfall. There’s no trade, no diplomatic missions, no sense of geography. We are given an origin myth which involves a ship landing and sleepers being woken, which hints at spacefarers being woken from coldsleep by the person who becomes the king, but it’s never followed through, so maybe this is foreshadowing for a future book, since this seems to be the first in a sequence. Is it possible that Landfall is the only human settlement on an earth-type planet?

Received from Netgalley in return for a review.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Ill Kept OathI almost didn’t finish this one even though it has many of the elements I like in a novel. It’s a Regency romance with magic. Nuff said? Just my sort of thing, usually, but it took me a little while to get into it.

Prudence Fairfeather and Lady Josephine Weston have been raised together as cousins, but have not been told of their magical inheritance. Lord Middlemere (Josephine’s somewhat lacklustre father) has taken an oath to keep them from magic.

Prudence goes to London for her debut season, but when she’s given some artefacts that belonged to her late mother, things start to get weird. In particular the wearing of her mother’s ring seems to imbue her with a talent for the truth. She managed to have a few fairly disastrous happenings which put a dent in her chances in the Marriage Mart. Meanwhile Josephine, still too young to attend the London season, discovers a talent for swordsmanship and an attraction to a certain young lieutenant who is hunting trolls (yes, trolls) in the district.

The characters are well-drawn, though I could have wished that the pace was a little more sprightly, especially in the first part of the book. It picks up in the second half, however and fairly romps home to an ending. It’s not a perfect book by any means, but it’s a competent debut.

Received from Netgalley in return for a review.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Free SpaceI really enjoyed the first Evagardian book, The Admiral, and on a general level I enjoyed this one, too, but where The Admiral had more questions to answer, in Free Space we already know some of the answers, so a large chunk of the intrigue is missing. When the Admiral (we still don’t know his real name, but we now know what he did and why the Evgardians want to silence him) and three companions are kidnapped while on a jaunt to a leisure destination, this book turns into another get-me-out-of-here story, though not on the same scale as The Admiral. Our main character (I can only keep calling him the Admiral, sorry.) is relying on his wits (and his date, Salmagard, one of the trio of rookies from The Admiral) to survive. It would help, of course, if he hadn’t been injected with a deadly poison to start off with. He may not necessarily be at his best.

When the opening kidnap took place I expected that it would be resolved quickly and the story would move on, but, in fact, the whole book is the kidnap and how they all survive it. The writing is equally gripping, but the scope of the whole book smaller than its predecessor. It’s still worth reading (and I will read the next one when it’s published) but it didn’t grip me as much as The Admiral.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Ruin and RisingIn the final Grisha book things come to a head for Alina and Mal. The Darkling rules and Alina has fallen under the power of a bunch of zealots who worship her as a saint, but won’t let her reclaim her Sun-Summoner power. Alina determines to find the last of the amplifiers to boost her power to defeat the Darkling, but there’s a nasty twist lying in wait for her. The triangle between Alina, Mal and Sturmhond/Nickolai is still causing problems. Alina has a big decision to make.

I’ve enjoyed Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy. I wish I’d read it before the Six of Crows duo as the knowledge of the Grisha feeds into Six of Crows, and some of the characters return in a minor role. Also Six of Crows/Crooked Kingdom shows the author’s growth. (They are also highly recommended.)
jacey: (blue eyes)
Siege and StormFollowing on from Shadow and Bone, this book sees Mal and Alina fleeing Ravka, but their freedom is fleeting. Alina is unhappy, and covering up her Sun Summoner powers takes its toll. The Darkling emerges with a frightening new power. We meet a fabulous new character, Sturmhond, a privateer who turns out to be so much more. There are complications between Mal and Alina, between Alina and Sturmhond and between Mal and Sturmhond. This is not exactly a love triangle, but it is a triangle and it’s developed quite well (though Mal spends a fair bit of time being an arse in this book.) It’s all about the search for amplifiers that will increase Alina’s power an enable her to defeat the darkling and reverse the big nasty darkness that splits the land.

I can’t say much more without spoilers. The whole Grisha trilogy is one story served up as three books, rather than three standalones. I recommend reading all three together.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Girl with All the GiftsI was going to read the book (by M.R. Carey) until a friend put me off by saying he thought the book was mostly great but he didn't like the ending. I don't know if the film followed the book closely, so you'll have to tell me whether it's the same ending if you've seen/read both.

I wouldn't normally go for zombie movies, but this isn't a normal zombie movie.

In a dystopian near future a fungus has infected a large proportion of the population turning them into flesh-eating, slow moving zombies. A group of children have been infected, but they still have intelligence and can control their bloodlust to a certain extent. Melanie is one such child, living in a government research facility where Dr Caldwell (Glenn Close), a research scientist, is conducting experiments on them, trying to find a cure. Gemma Arterton is Miss Justineau, Melanie's sympathetic teacher and the only person who treats the child as an individual to be nurtured. Colm McCarthy directs.

When the situation outside the compound gets worse as the 'hungries' overrun the uninfected, Miss Justineau, Melanie, Dr. Caldwell, Sgt Eddie Parks (Paddy Considine) and squaddie Kieran Gallagher (Fisayo Akinade) go on the run in a world filled with people who only see them as a meal. Melanie, polite, intelligent, caring, yet terrifying, is the only one who can bridge the gap between the zombies and the unaffected humans. More clues than that would plunge this into spoiler territory. There aren't a whole raft of CGI effects, and it's not all thrill, spills and excitement - though there is action and tension. It does well with what's probably a smallish budget. Some of the aerial footage was shot by a second unit in the ghost town of Prypjat, near Chernobyl, in the Ukraine, so if the post-apocalyptic imagery looks realistic, it is. (Thgough some was also shot in Birmingham, so what does that say?) Though it's not exactly a fun movie, it is interesting and worth watching. Sennia Nanua plays Melanie in a nuanced performance that bodes very well for her acting future. The film takes the zombie theme and does something different with it, driving it to a different conclusion than the one we might expect.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Bridget Jones babyBridget is now 43 and once more living the single (and more-or-less celibate) life. She's a successful news producer by day, and a couch potato by night... until she's dragged to a music festival and after promising to shag the first man she meets, does just that. Luckily the shagee is Jack (Patric Dempsey). Just a week or two afterwards she meets old flame Mark (Colin Firth) who is on the verge of getting a divorce from his wife. More shagging ensues.

So, knowing the title of the film, you can see where this is going. Bridget is pregnant, but which one of the two gorgeous men in her life is the daddy and how is she going to explain to each one of them exactly what the situation is. There's a great love triangle vibe with stuffy, uptight Mark and easygoing, freewheeling Jack each vying for paternal recognition. There a hilarious dash (or not) to the hospital when the time comes.

Renee Zelweger is brilliant as Bridget, but Emma Thompson as the obstetrician easily steals every scene she's in. Very enjoyable.
jacey: (blue eyes)
miss-peregrines-homeVisually stunning (with a lot of CGI), this is a Tim Burton movie about time loops, strange children and scary monsters. Jake (Asa Butterfield) has grown up on his Grandpa's (Terence Stamp) stories about his life fighting monsters wothout actually giving any of it much credence, until his grandfather is murdered by a monster that only Jake has seen.  He goes in search of the orphanage (on an island off the coast of Wales), and finds the ruin of the Victorian Gothic house, bombed during the Second World War... or was it? Jake finds the time loop and is introduced to Miss Peregrine (Eva Green) and the peculiar children with a variety of talents (not all of them useful). He also discovers that the monsters are real.

I felt as though this was a movie I should love. It's quirky and imaginative but somehow Jake should be the emotional centre of the movie, and he isn't. I'm not sure whether to put it down to the director or to Butterfield himself, but he simply doesn't cut it. There's an excellent turn from Terence Stamp as Grandpa Abe and a brief appearance by Judi Dench (always good value) but the children themselves are a bit underdeveloped, character-wise. It's not a movie that's going to stick in my mind for very long.

It scores bonus points for having Blackpool (and Blackpool Tower) as one of the settings.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Shadow and BoneAlina and Mal, Mal and Alina. It's always been just the two of them against the world. Brought up on charity, both refugees from Ravka's seemingly endless war, they end up doing military service, Mal as a tracker, Alina as a cartographer. When their unit has to cross the Shadow Fold, a preternatural darkness filled with flesh-eating monsters, danger strikes and Alina saves Mal by manifesting light. It turns out she has a rare power that just might save Ravka, so without a by-your-leave she's carted off by the darkling to train as a Grisha. That's good, right? Well, yes and no. Her talent is elusive and something is going on that she doesn't understand... (If I told you any more I'd have to shoot you.)

This comes before Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom, and in a way I wish I hadn't read the other two first because the other two are superb and this is merely good. Having said that good is GOOD, and I've immediately started reading the second book in the trilogy. Alina is an excellent character and the plot is twisty.

The setting is interesting. It’s a secondary world fantasy with heavy Russian overtones. For someone who knows little about Russian culture and history, there’s enough here to give a flavour and to lift it out of generic medievaloid fantasy. The level of technology is interesting. There’s gunpowder and the army has rifles, but there’s not much evidence of an industrial revolution, so no trains or heavy industry (that we see).
jacey: (blue eyes)
Crooked KingdomCrooked Kingdom begins where Six of Crows ended. After pulling a successful caper at the Ice Court on behalf of Jan van Eck Kaz Brekkers gang has been ruinously doublecrossed and Inej, the Wraith, taken prisoner. Though he would never admit it Inej means more to Kaz Brekker than anything else, but Kaz is a hard-nosed criminal and part of his invulnerability is caring for nothing.

Kaz is nominally second in command of a street gang called the Dregs, though their leader Per Rollins has relaxed into letting Kaz do all the work. Kaz has assembled his own little team: Nina, a grisha (magic) heartrender who can control the human body with the power of her mind, but who is now suffering the after effects of a drug; Matthias, a Fjerdan soldier who promised to kill Nina, but fell in love with her instead; Inej, the Wraith, a light-footed, acrobatic spy who was brought to Ketterdam as a slave; Jesper, a sharpshooter whose big failing is that he's addicted to gambling. The sixth member of the team is Wylan, the son of Van Eck, the council member who doublecrossed Kaz and his team. Wylan has his own problems with dear old dad. In addition there's Kuwei Yul Bo, half their hostage, half under their protection and all trouble. Kuwei's father invented a horrific drug, jurda parem, which amplifies the talents of Grisha before killing them, and Kuwei might be the best hope for finding an antidote. The problem is that he's wanted by almost every faction in the city.

Thus the stage is set for another hectic visit to Ketterdam and, more specifically, the Barrel - the bad part of a bad place. Kaz Brekker is out for revenge and one way or another he intends to see van Eck pay for his doublecross and Pekka Rollins pay for a much deeper hurt inflicted six years earlier.

The characters are fascinating. They are a bundle of conflicting flaws. Kaz is clever, twisted and dark, ruthless and desperately trying to hide the fact that he's become fond of (and reliant upon) his gang. He's as hard as nails, but has a weakness that he keeps hidden, knowing it could kill him. Inej can scale a building or walk a high wire, but after a year imprisoned in a brothel she doesn't want to be touched. Nina is still at the stage of withdrawal that she'll beg for another dose of parem. Wylan, despite his cleverness with chemicals, can't read and believes this makes him a second class human being because it's what his father has always told him. Jesper is always driven towards risk and the next big gamble. Matthias thinks he's a traitor to his own country, which isn't too far from the truth.

The action is fast and furious with many twists and turns while Kaz and his gang try to keep ahead of the people who want them dead--which is just about everyone in the city, mercher and criminal alike. There's a satisfactory ending (no cliffhangers like Six of Crows) but enough possibilities that I hope this is not the last we see of Brekker and his Crows. Though this seems to be written for the YA market, it’s hard enough and fast enough to easily appeal across the board.
jacey: (blue eyes)
IMG_20160925_090611849Fantasycon-by-the-Sea in late September was... interesting. It was held at the Grand Hotel, Scarborough, which is undoubtedly no longer grand, though it is big.

It remains the most writerly of cons with most panels aimed at writers and peopled by writers and industry professionals. Its progamme is hard to fault and there are lots of book launches and plenty of freebie books. (I scored Adrian Tchaikovsky's Guns of the Dawn, Naomi Novik's Uprooted and Helen Keen's The Science of Game of Thrones.) I signed up for a couple of excellent small events, including the Scott Lynch and Elizabeth Bear one on being a writer.

The panel rooms were a good size (some of them in the Grand's sister hotel just round the corner) and there was always social seating available in at least one of the bars. The Grand Hotel was actually a perfect setting for a horror con, but it worked for fantasy, too. 365 rooms, 12 floors, four turrets for days of the year/months/seasons. It's Victorian Gothick or possibly Victorian Grotesque. (Just check out the brickwork in the photo.) It must have been very grand in its heyday, but now it's being milked by Pontins. The maximum profit for the minimum amount of renovation/upkeep seems to be the way of things, so there are patches of damp plaster, broken toilets, lifts that don't work (and when they do you kind of wish you weren't trusting your life to them). The lounge bar which still has glorious ornamental plaster pillars similar to the ones in the Brighton Pavilion now has a row of fruit machines, and the corridor leading to the dealer rooms was jam-packed with re-charging mobility scooters.

IMG_20160923_140643448But the staff were unfailingly pleasant and you can't beat it for value for money. The basic room-share cost £40 per person per night for bed, breakfast and evening meal. I'm surprised they can function at all at that price. We paid an extra tenner per person per night for a sea-view room and a place in the 'posh' dining room. (Same food but no gueues.) That was a good move. Our room was tired, but functional and clean, and the view over South Bay was magnificent. Bonus was an enormous 'afternoon tea' at the Grand. It was so big we didn't know whether to eat it or ride it. I don't normally take photos of food but this had to be an exception.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Despite only lasting one week Milford seems to slurp up the whole of my September. First I'm getting ready for it, prepping my own submission (up to 15,000 words in one or two pieces), and this year the words would not behave themselves. I send one sub at the right time, but the other was a week late - which makes it difficult for the other participants who are standing by to receive, read and critique the pieces. After launching my own submission into the ether I then had a week to read all the other subs. There are fifteen writers in total so a potential 14 x 15,000 words to critique. That's 210,000 words to not only read, but read analytically and say helpful and sensible things about.

So by the time I climbed in my car and headed off to North Wales, I'd already done a lot of work. Then Milford itself is a mixture of free tme in relaxing surroundings, formal critique sessions, and social evenings with other writers. Hey, it's fun, but it is tiring. By the time I got back I was ready for a little lie down in a darkened room.

Here are some of my pics of the week...
The Nantlle Valley is truly beautiful. That's Mount Snowdon in the distance.
Nantlle Valley

The view from the main house at Trigonos looking down towards the lake.

Lake 3

Food is fresh from the gardens at Trigonos (and from local suppliers). Breakfast, elevenses, lunch, cake o'clock (4 p.m.) and dinner at 7.00. You certainly don't go hungry!

lunch 1

Peaceful mornings. (David Allan hard at work on a manuscript in the Trigonos library)David Allan reading

Though sometimes the strain begins to show! Jim Anderson awaiting a critique of one of his pieces.

And finally, the whole Milford group of 2016:
L-R standing: John Moran, Dave Gullen, Terry Jackman, David Allan, Guy T Martland, Jim Anderson, Liz Williams, Jacey Bedford, Glen Mehn, Elizabeth Counihan, Lizzy Priest. Seated L-R: Sue Thomason, Amy Tibbetts, Paulina Morgan, Siobhan McVeigh.
Milford 2016-03
jacey: (blue eyes)
Angel comes to Devils KeepAn unlikely but amusing plot. When Angelica Lovelace, American born daughter of an English ‘younger son’ comes to England to find a husband she promises her father she’ll make a good marriage. On the way to a house party her coach is wrecked in a storm and she stumbles across Huntington McLaughlin – almost literally. Hunt’s horse throws him when Angel pops out of the forest and he sustains a head injury resulting in amnesia. Angel rescues him from rising waters but gets into a tangle when she claims to be his wife so as not to scandalise the farmer who takes them in. I’m certainly not going to outline the plot, but one thing leads to another and Hunt and Angel spend a fair amount of the book knowing that they shouldn’t fall in love but… Well, you get the drift. It’s a bright and breezy read.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Miss Morrison's Second ChanceA Regency romance featuring Verity Morrison and her one time sweetheart Bradford Pemberton, torn apart by jealousy some twelve years earlier. Verity has dwindled into spinsterhood while Pemberton, exiled to foreign lands, made his fortune. When Pemberton returns for a visit to set some affairs in order he expects that Verity must me long married. Verity, seeing Pemberton in the company of her flighty and disreputable married sister, wonders whether she ever had his heart in the first place. It’s one of those stories where the protagonists could have solved a lot of misunderstandings if they’d sat down together over a nice cup of tea, but I’m probably not giving much away to say that it all works out in the end.  It’s a pleasant read – worth spending a few hours on.
jacey: (blue eyes)
RevengerSet in the far, far future when there are myriad small worlds interconnected by trade routes and some 'baubles' containing remnants of alien tech which are valuable but difficult (and dangerous) to get. There are vessels and crews whose sole purpose is to penetrate the baubles and amongst those crews there's a fair amount of rivalry, but no crew as cruel or ruthless as that led by the legendary Bosa Sennen

Two teen sisters, Adrana and Arafura Ness, escape the clutches of their overprotective father to go off adventuring into space, ostensibly to shore up the family's failing finances. They are bone-readers with the capability to jack into alien skulls and communicate across space instantly. Captain Rackamore takes the girls on board and teaches them the basics, but when they are attacked by Bosa Sennen everything goes pear-shaped. Adrana and Fura are separated and Fura, who narrates the story, must go to extraordinary lengths to keep a promise she's made to herself.

This is a little coy about admitting it's a book suitable for the older end of the YA market, but it's actually a book that can easily cross over into both adult and YA. It's a rip-roaring space-based adventure with high stakes. The blurb says it's for lovers of Firefly and Star Wars and I can see where it's coming from. There are certainly echoes of Firefly in the independent nature of the small crews risking all, sometimes scoring, sometimes not.

The worldbuilding is imaginative, but Reynolds doesn't spoonfeed the details to the reader. What are the baubles? How are they sealed? What were the alien occupations that went before? We gradually find out more as we go through, but there are many more layers to this universe that could be unveiled in future books.

Imaginative and exciting. Well worth reading.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Talisman RingLord Lavenham’s dying wish is that Sir Tristram Shield should marry Eustacie, his young French cousin and take over the administration of the estate, since the heir, Ludovic, is currently out of the country, having been accused of murder a few years earlier. Tristram is mature and sensible, Eustacie young and flighty (and somewhat silly). It looks like a match made in hell, though Tristram is willing to go through with it as he thinks it’s about time he should wed. His heart is not involved.

Things turn rapidly when Eustacie decides to run away and with the organisational ability of a cucumber manages to get herself into trouble almost immediately by running into smugglers on a dark and lonely stretch of road. But the leader of the smugglers is Ludovic and when he’s shot by excisemen, Eustacie ends up at an inn with him where they meet Sarah Thane who is travelling with her brother who has settled in to the Inn with a severe case of man-flu and several bottles from the inn’s excellent cellar. Tristram isn’t far behind and soon Sarah muscles in on the adventure,too. It turns out that Ludovic, protesting his innocence in the murder, reckons that his cousin (who stands to inherit the Lavenham estate) is the guilty party and finding the talisman ring will prove the matter.

A regency romance with a twist of mystery, adventure: smugglers and a murder. A missing ring can prove one man’s innocence and another’s guilt. There’s a riotous cast of characters, not all playing the traditional roles. Whose story is it? Who’s the hero and who’s the heroine?
jacey: (blue eyes)
Swallows-And-Amazons-posterWhat can I say about this? Well, I expected it to be a nostalgic trip back to the type of books I read in my childhood (though I admit I never read this one). Sadly it wasn't enough to hold my attention. I have to say that my enjoyment of this was severely curtailed by the audience. Why on earth someone would think it was a suitable movie for a two year old I have no idea, but said two year old was then allowed to run up and down the aisle for the duration. Couple that with a fidgety family kicking my seat at frequent intervals and I may not have been in the most receptive of moods. Yes, I know you can expect children in the audience at a children's film during the school holidays, but is a certain level of good behaviour (from the parents) too much to ask? Am I just a grumpy old git?

Ok, back to the movie... Setting: the Lake District. Time period: 1930s/40s (unspecific, but the book was written in the 30s). The Walker children (the Swallows) are given permission to camp on an island in the middle of a lake. When they get there, they have to battle against a pair of local girls (the Amazons) for control of the island. There's no health and safety rubbish, just four kids in a boat squabbling like kids do until you want to bang their precious little heads together. The book character Titty has been coyly turned into Tatty for obvious reasons. There's a 39-Steps type spy drama grafted on to the original, but I'm not sure it rescues the film. Pity.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Night in the Lonesome OctA friend recommended this to me a couple of years ago and I kept forgetting about it – which is a pity because it’s great. Set in a Victorianesque England and told from the point of view of Snuff, the dog, who belongs to Jack, it’s horrific, quirky and funny (those aren’t mutually exclusive). We’re left to figure out what’s happening as a bunch of characters from (his)story and fiction (Jack the Ripper, Dracula, Rasputin, Dr Frankenstein, Larry Talbot and The Great Detective amongst others) prepare for some kind of game or contest which involves a fair amount of grave robbing and—it seems—a little murder and mayhem. There are factions—openers and closers—and we must fathom who is aligned with whom. Snuff does occasionally get to discuss things with Jack, but mostly his circle of friends-who-might-be-enemies includes the familiars of the other magical types: cat, rat, snake, bat and owl. We follow the crew through the days of October, day by day, as the game builds to Halloween. Light in tone, but grim in subject I have to admire Zelazny’s imagination and brilliance.

Review copy provided by Netgalley.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Lord St Claires AngelI’ve had a spate of reading Regency romances of late, so maybe I’m getting a bit jaded, but this wasn’t the best. The heroine is an arthritic spinster (which is a refreshing change) and the hero a rake about to reform. Both of them are sympathetic characters, but unfortunately they spend far too much time musing on the meaning of love and the whole thing seemed somewhat over-long to support the simple story. Sweet but not riveting.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Little DonkeyA short story which follows in from The Nothing Girl. Apart from a glitch in timing (something right at the end of The Nothing Girl doesn’t tie into the timeline of Little Donkey) this is a fun read. The vicar wants to borrow Marilyn the Donkey for the church nativity play but anyone who knows what kind of chaos the Checkland household lives in could predict the results. More about Jenny and Russell (post wedding) together with the excellent peripheral characters and even a visit from Thomas the invisible (to most people) horse. You should probably read The Nothing Girl first. Recommended.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Petes DragonIt's that time of year again. Most of the new movies are kiddie films. Thankfully Pete's Dragon was better by miles than last week's offering: Suicide Squad. I didn't see the original cartoon version of Pete's Dragon, so no comparisons. This was live action with a CGI dragon featuring Bryce Dallas Howard, Robert Redford, Karl Urban and Wes Bentley in the adult roles and a very cute Oakes Fegley as Pete. You probably know the story. Small child is orphaned by a car accident wonders into the forest and is looked after by a dragon (whom the child names Elliott). Six years later the child is found and the dragon revealed (to a timber cutting crew) whereupon unsympathetic adult (Karl Urban) captures the dragon and sympathetic adults help Pete to release him.
Pete's Dragon 2
Robert Redford continues to be magnetic on screen despite wrinkles. Oakes Fegley, as Pete was supposed to be ten years old but looked about seven. (His bio doesn't give a definitive age, but he was approximately nine or ten at the time of filming. For a child of that age he has an impressive acting resumee already.

The dragon was a bit... lumpy and it had fur. Was that to make it less scary for kids or with a view to marketing plush toys?

Your kids might well enjoy it. The car crash at the beginning in which Pete was orphaned, was sensitively handled. No blood, no dead bodies and a quick move to 'six years later'.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Nothing GirlI’ve burned through all Jodi Taylor’s back catalogue this year – her Chronicles of St Marys’ books and her historical fiction under the name of Isabella Barclay– but since I mostly read SF and historicals I hadn’t considered reading The Nothing Girl. At first glance it looked like chick-lit, which I’m not fond of, however, I’ve loved all of Ms Taylor’s writing so thought I should give it a try. I’m not disappointed. Having read and thoroughly enjoyed it, I’m not actually sure how to categorise it. Chick-lit crossed with fantasy? Possibly. Mystery – yes, there’s a bit of that, too. Romance? Ditto. Or maybe it’s just mainstream fiction. It all depends on whether you think the giant golden horse that only Jenny can see is real or imaginary. The fact is that Jenny thinks he’s real, so that’s good enough for me.

Jenny is an introverted young woman with a dreadful stammer not helped by her aunt and uncle’s overprotectiveness. Her parents died and left her well provided for, but traumatised. She lives quietly in an attic room, fully equipped with bookshelves, computer, and a giant golden horse called Thomas who arrived on the day she tried to commit suicide as a thirteen-year-old. Thomas is still with her – and will remain with her until she doesn’t need him any more.

It’s a complicated family worthy of Jilly Cooper. The daughter of the house, Jenny’s glamorous cousin, has had (or maybe is still having) an abusive on-off relationship with Russell Checkland (currently off) whom Jenny has known since school (where he was one of the few who treated her kindly). Russell, a talented artist, lost his muse and his will to paint when Jenny’s cousin left him. Jenny’s cousin has a new man but doesn’t want anyone else to have Russell – which is a pity because Russell has just asked Jenny to marry him. What? Where did that come from? Well, it’s simple enough. Russell has a fabulous old farmhouse but no money to repair it. Jenny has an inheritance but no life outside of her bedroom. Jenny gets a home, Russell gets to keep his home together. It’s a simple arrangement that’s about to get a whole lot more complicated, especially since Jenny keeps having ‘accidents’. Who’s to blame or is she just very clumsy?

As ever I loved Jodi Taylor's 'voice'. There were definite giggle moments in this book. It's light and entertaining while telling an interesting story of genuine depth.

BTW, I don't think the cover does this book any favours and is probably what originally contributed to me dismissing this book as 'chick lit'. without examining it too closely
jacey: (blue eyes)
AdmiralFour cryo-sleepers wake on a strange vessel in space, the first three are rookie Evagardian military personnel and the last is an admiral - or so it says on his sleeper. He's as surprised about this as the other three are. This is a get-me-out-of-here story paced like a race over hurdles. Problem after problem besets our quartet at breakneck speed. They are not actually in space, but on a planet, their ship on unstable ground, and the crew is dead--in bizarre circumstances. The planet is uninhabited and uninhabitable, but are they alone? Though they don't all trust him the three rookies (skilled but inexperienced) follow the admiral's lead. Throughout the story we get hints as to who this 'admiral' might be. I guessed (about halfway through) what he'd done, if not who he was, and it turns out I was right, but the narrative kept me engrossed to the end. Yes, the 'admiral' is an unreliable narrator deliberately hiding his identity, but I can forgive that for the rest of the book and the fact that it is the first book in a series. I'll be looking for the next. Highly recommended.
jacey: (blue eyes)
HealerDid the fashion for sexy men in kilts begin with Outlander or was there an earlier trend that I missed? (Disclaimer: I’ve never had a thing about men in kilts!) Well, this is one of those sexy men in kilts books, but for all that it’s engaging and a quick, light read.

Lynelle is an outcast in her own family home just south of the Scottish border (in the days when the border was somewhat flexible and border raids were de rigeur). She’s been rejected by her father and stepmother and has been brought up by the local healer (now deceased). When her half-brother is kidnapped by a Scottish raiding party from just over the border, Lynelle sets out to rescue him, not so much out of love for the boy, but because she wants to prove herself to her father. She exaggerates her healing skills – learned but little practised. In a trade (two weeks of her time in return for the release of the boy) she’s sent along to Closeburn with Laird William Kirkpatrick to tend his injured brother. William is shy of healers, having banished one from Closeburn for failing to save various members of his family.

Of course Lynelle falls for the brooding William (rather too easily, maybe) and you can probably more-or-less guess the rest. It’s a fun, light read and there are no great surprises in the ending, but it satisfies the story.

Just for the record, I hate historical romance covers that have headless bare six-packs on the cover. At least this one has a headless bare back.

Note: Review copy provided by netgalley
jacey: (blue eyes)
In other news, tomorrow is our 45th wedding anniversary. Forty five! You do understand that I was a child bride, I hope. If they hadn't lowered the voting age I wouldn't even have been able to vote, yet I could get married and jointly own a mortgaged house!

BB says 45 is our Sapphire anniversary and so a couple of days ago he took me into Huddersfield and we came back with a sapphire and diamond eternity ring - narrow and very delicate. I look forward to seeing if it still fits tomorrow!

We didn't have a proper photographer (too expensive) so we ended up with a series of snaps. Brian and I are pretty obviously 'bride and groom' but the others are, left to right: Brian's Mum, Evelyn Bedford (Brian's dad was there as well but got chopped off by the photo-snapper), Best Man, John Louth, just peeping up from the back between me and Brian is my maternal grandpa, Tommy Bennett, then my dad, Tony Lockyer, my mum, Joan Lockyer, wearing a lampshade on her head, and my grandma, Annie Bennett. We lost touch with John when he emigrated to South Africa many years ago, and of the rest, only my mum is left, so this holds a lot of memories.

June 2017



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