The cover is boring (so similar to so many others), but though it's fluffy, some of the dialogue carries the story well.
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.
- Patricia Briggs: Fire Touched – Mercy Thompson #9
- Andy Weir: The Martian.
- Lois McMaster Bujold: Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen – Vorkosi #16
- Paul Cornell: The Witches of Lychford
- Seanan McGuire: Every Heart a Doorway
- Julie Kagawa: The Iron King – The Iron Fey #1
- David Tallerman: Patchwerk
- Jim C Hines: Codex Born – Magic ex-Libris #2
- Benedict Jacka: Taken – Alex Verus #3
- Adrian Tchaikovsky: The Tiger and the Wolf – Echoes of the Fall #1
- Zen Cho: Sorcerer to the Crown – Sorcerer Royal #1
- Emma Newman: Between Two Thorns – Split Worlds #1
- Veronica Roth: Insurgent – Divergent #2
- Liesel Schwarz: A Conspiracy of Alchemists – Chronicles of Light and Shadow #1
- Ann Aguirre: Endgame – Sirantha Jax #6
- Leigh Bardugo: Six of Crows – Six of Crows #1
- Anne Gracie: The Perfect Rake – Merridew Sisters #1
- Georgette Heyer: The Masqueraders
- Jim Butcher: The Aeronaut’s Windlass – Cinder Spires #1
- Diana Gabaldon: Virgins – Outlander (novella)
- Rachael Miles: Chasing the Heiress – The Muses Salon #2
- Tim Powers: Down and Out in Purgatory
- Guy Haley: The Emperor’s Railroad – Dreaming Cities #1
- Tim Lebbon: Pieces of Hate with Dead Man’s Hand
- Sarah Hegger: The Bride Gift
- Gaie Sebold: Babylon Steel
- Jodi Taylor: Just one Damn Thing After Another – Chronicles of St Mary’s #1
- Jodi Taylor: A Symphony of Echoes – Chronicles of St Mary’s #2
- Jodi Taylor: A Second Chance – Chronicles of St Mary’s #3
- Jodi Taylor: A Trail Through Time – Chronicles of St Mary’s #4
- Jodi Taylor: The Very First Damn Thing – Chronicles of St Mary’s 0.5
- Jodi Taylor: When a Child is Born – Chronicles of St Mary’s Short Story 2.5
- Jodi Taylor: Roman Holiday – Chronicles of St Mary’s Short Story 3.5
- Jodi Taylor: No Time Like the Past – Chronicles of St Mary’s #5
- Jodi Taylor: Ships and Stings and Wedding Rings – Chronicles of St Mary’s Short Story 6.5
- Jodi Taylor: What Could Possibly Go Wrong? – Chronicles of St Mary’s #6
- Jodi Taylor: Christmas Present – Chronicles of St Mary’s Short Story 4.5
- Jodi Taylor: Lies, Damned Lies and History – Chronicles of St Mary’s #7
- Joe Hill: The Fireman
- Benedict Jacka: Chosen – Alex Verus #4
- Lisa Tuttle: The Somnambulist and the Psychic Thief
- Peter S. Beagle: Summerlong
- Tom Lloyd: Stranger of Tempest (Couldn’t finish)
- Georgette Heyer: The Nonesuch
- Benedict Jacka: Hidden – Alex Verus #5
- Isabella Barclay: A Bachelor Establishment
- Walter Jon Williams: Voice of the Whirlwind
- Alexandra Bracken: The Passenger
- Eileen Putman: The Dastardly Duke – Love in Disguise #2
- Lois McMaster Bujold: Penric & the Shaman – Penric & Desemona #2
- Georgette Heyer: The Quiet Gentleman
- Karen Tuft: The Earl’s Betrothal
- Sally MacKenzie: What to do with a Duke – The Spinster House #1
- Julie Daines: Willowkeep
- Kevin Hearne: The Purloined Poodle – Oberon’s Meaty Mysteries
- Willow Palecek: City of Wolves
- Georgette Heyer: Sylvester
- Georgette Heyer: Devil’s Cub
- Georgette Heyer: Regency Buck
- Jodi Taylor: The Great St Mary’s Day Out – Chronicles of St Mary’s Short Story
- Regina Scott: The Husband Campaign – The Master Matchmakers #3
- C.E.Murphy: House of Cards – The Negotiator #2
- Allison Butler: The Healer – Borderland Brides #1
- Sean Danker: The Admiral – Evagardian #1
- Jodi Taylor: The Nothing Girl
- Cassandra Rose Clarke: The Wizard’s Promise
- Jodi Taylor: Little Donkey
- Donna Lea Simpson: Lord St Claire’s Angel
- Roger Zelazny: A Night in the Lonesome October
- Georgette Heyer: The Talisman Ring
- Alastair Reynolds: Revenger
- Janis Susan May: Miss Morrison’s Second Chance
- Regina Jeffers: Angel Comes to Devil’s Keep
- Leigh Bardugo: Crooked Kingdom – Six of Crows #2
- Leigh Bardugo: Shadow and Bone – The Grisha #1
- Leigh Bardugo: Siege and Storm – The Grisha #2
- Leigh Bardugo: Ruin and Rising – The Grisha #3
- Sean Danker: Free Space – Evagardian #2
- C.C. Aune: The Ill-Kept Oath
- Den Patrick: The Boy with the Porcelain Blade – Erebus Sequence #1
- Julia Quinn: The Duke and I – Bridgertons #1
- Benedict Jacka: Veiled – Alex Verus #6
- John Scalzi: Miniatures – The Very Short Fiction of John Scalzi
- Julia Quinn: The Viscount who Loved Me – Bridgertons #2
- Benedict Jacka: Burned – Alex Verus #7
- Lois McMaster Bujold: Penric’s Mission – Penric #3
- Bianca Blythe: A Rogue to Avoid – Matchmaking for Wallflowers #2
- Lois McMaster Bujold: Penric’s Demon – Penric #1
- Gaie Sebold: Dangerous Gifts – Babylon Steel #2
- Nick Wood: Azanian Bridges
- Genevieve Cogman: The Burning Page – Invisible Library #3
- Jodi Taylor: My Name is Markham – Chronicles of St Mary’s short story
- David McKie: What’s in a Surname
- Allison Kinney: Hood
- Nisi Shawl & Cynthia Ward: Writing the Other
- Susanne Alleyn: Medieval Underpants and Other Blunders
- Louise Allen: Walks Through Regency London
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.
I write this on 27th December, the day that Carrie Fisher's death has been announced. RIP Princess Leia. Taken far too young.
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.
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.
Another good instalment in this excellent urban fantasy series set in London.
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.
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.)
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.
In writing this booklog I realised I'd missed book logging the first Bujold/Penric book, so here's a retrospective.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
But 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.
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.
The view from the main house at Trigonos looking down towards the lake.
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!
Peaceful mornings. (David Allan hard at work on a manuscript in the Trigonos library)
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.
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.
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?
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.
Review copy provided by Netgalley.
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'.
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
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
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.