jeudi 25 septembre 2014

Doctor Who: The Crawling Terror by Mike Tucker


Disclaimer: An electronic copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

When a village finds itself overrun by giant insects and cut off from the outside world by a giant spider's web, the Doctor and Clara investigate. As the attacks grow more deadly and an army of zombie village people begin to stalk the survivors, the Doctor realises that no one may be safe. The only hope is to decode the symbols engraved on an ancient stone circle, symbols that are somehow linked to a mystery dating back to the Second World War... 

I have not read very many Doctor Who novels, beyond a couple when I was a kid that I picked up in a second hand book shop. Nevertheless, I am a huge Doctor Who fan and love the new shows, so I was extremely excited when the new Doctor was announced. After reading the War Doctor novel last month, I decided to give the new BBC novels based on Capaldi's doctor a try. Of those The Crawling Terror was the first I received via Netgalley and so I gave it a shot. 

The Crawling Terror turned out to be much better than I had expected. Tucker gets Capaldi's voice down perfectly, which is astonishing considering that when he wrote them the series had not even started yet. The same with Clara and the dialogue between the two reads perfectly following the first few episodes. Beyond that, The Crawling Terror turns a cracking story, involving alien invaders, Nazi experiments and ley-lines, as well as the eponymous giant bugs! I was quite surprised at what a visceral reaction I had - I mean nobody likes giant insects but the descriptions here were much more scary than expected. Once we get into the nitty gritty of the plot, the story becomes a standard Doctor Who adventure - lots of running, time travel shenanigans and an over the top enemy - but as a fan, that was fine with me. I really enjoyed The Crawling Terror and will definitely check out the others. 

I gave The Crawling Terror 3 stars.

mercredi 24 septembre 2014

Star Wars A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller


Disclaimer: This electronic copy was provided by the publisher in return for an honest review.

In the aftermath of the Clone Wars, the Republic has fallen, replaced by the Empire. The Jedi were betrayed and slaughtered, leaving only a handful of survivors to eke out a quiet existence on the fringes of galactic power. But as the Emperor tightens his grip, even those fringes have begun to fall under the iron rule of the Empire. Hidden amongst those who live in the outskirts are those whose lives were destroyed by Palpatine's plans, those who have begun to question his means and motives. On the far off world of Gorse, a handful of such people, including Kanan Jarrus, a former Jedi padawan and Hera Syndulla, an agent provocateur with plans of her own, will stand together against one of the Empire's most fearsome enforcers... with the fate of an entire world in the palm of their hands. 

Few people interested in pop culture will have failed to notice the intense discussion that broke out a few months ago when Disney announced that the Star Wars Expanded Universe - the vast collection of novels, short stories, comics and games that had so far formed the unofficial canon of the galaxy far far away - was being wiped clean, replaced by a brand new canon that would be just as official as the movies. Starting with the Clone Wars cartoon, this new canon would also include new novels, the first of which - A New Dawn - sets up the cartoon series Rebels. 

A New Dawn does a nice job of setting up the main characters of the series, while also telling an interesting, exciting, but slightly disappointing story involving mining, terrorism and the fight for freedom. Centered around two main characters - both of whom are featured on the cover - A New Dawn is no revolutionary new beginning for the Star Wars galaxy. While it does manage to keep your attention thanks to a race against time plot and a reluctant Jedi forced to embrace his powers once again, it is hard to hide the fact that this is designed to get the characters into their positions ready for Rebels to begin in October. The addition of a handful of secondary characters, including a very well realised villain, does add some spice to the story, but it is difficult to develop any real interest in Kanan and Hera. Hopefully the upcoming novels, one of which will centre on Grand Moff Tarkin, will do more to ignite this new expanded universe. 

I gave Star Wars: A New Dawn 3 stars

dimanche 21 septembre 2014

New on the Library Shelves 21 09 14

AKA Showcase Sunday

A new segment here, participating in the Showcase Sunday meme over at Books, Biscuits & Tea.

The most exciting release I purchased this week is definitely Edge of Eternity by Ken Follett - I have loved his Century trilogy so far and can't wait to see how he ties it all up in this last book, set in the latter part of the 20th century. If you haven't read the Century trilogy yet, and you like historical fiction, pick it up. Extremely addictive! Also worthy of special mention: The Galaxy Game by Karen Lord and The Midnight Queen by Sylvia Izzo Hunter.

For review:
The Ghost Shift by John Gapper
The Galaxy Game by Karen Lord
The Wars of the Roses by Dan Jones
What You Left Behind by Samantha Hayes
In These Times by Jenny Uglow

The Midnight Queen by Sylvia Izzo Hunter
Thirteen Days in September by Lawrence Wright

So, what's new on your shelves this week?

samedi 20 septembre 2014

The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley

When the dark star rises, worlds will collide and nations will be extinguished. Thrown through a portal when she was only a child, a troubled orphan struggles to learn the truth about her own past, while a new ruler fights to hold his country together in the face of a civil war. Invaders from another realm are decimating whole cities, while a general is called upon to eradicate her father’s people. In the end, the truth about the invasion will come to light as many worlds face destruction…

The Mirror Empire has been one of the most highly anticipated novels so far in SFF circles, mentioned, hyped and reviewed on most of the biggest blogs. I read the first book in Hurley’s sci-fi trilogy a couple of years ago and enjoyed it, so I was looking forward to this one, especially after hearing how imaginative the world building was. While I definitely enjoyed that aspect of the novel, I struggled with some of the rest of it, notably the character work. Outside the main characters, I found it difficult to keep a track of who was who, not a problem I generally have despite reading a lot of epic fantasy. I think what irritates me the most is that I can’t put my finger on exactly why I had such difficulty keeping the various characters straight in my mind. Also, I did not feel any sense of urgency while reading – this is nowhere near being a novel that kept me reading far into the night. On the positive side, the breadth of imagination on display is awe-inspiring, from living trees to huge mirrors that allow passage between worlds. And Hurley is definitely a talented writer whose prose is a joy to read. The story itself just failed to gel with me, unfortunately.
I gave The Mirror Empire 3 stars.

vendredi 19 septembre 2014

Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuire

She has many names. The Phantom Prom Date. The Girl in the Diner. The Spirit of Sparrow Hill Road. But when she was alive, she was called Rose. Rose Marshall. Victim of the man called Bobby Cross, she now lives in the midnight America, amongst the routewitches and ambulomancers, the crossroads ghosts and the poltergeists. Sixty years after her death, though, Bobby Cross still haunts her. The man who sold his soul to live forever has only ever let one soul slip through his fingers and he has no intention of giving up until Rose is added to his collection. Welcome to the ghostroads.

Once every so often, a book comes along so awesome, so perfectly tailored for your reading tastes of the time that it can leave a reader giddy. Sparrow Hill Road was that for me. A tale of ghost stories, hitch hikers, crossroads and Americana, Sparrow Hill Road is epic in the best sense of the word: a story that crosses time and space, descending down through multiple levels of reality and oozing with haunts and ghouls. More importantly, though, Sparrow Hill Road is the story of a girl and the life she enjoys after her death. Rose is more than the main character here – she is our guide, our friend and our protector against the things that go bump in the night. I fell in love with Rose Marshall and I desperately hope that Seanan McGuire will come back to her – her story seems far from over as you turn the last page. McGuire is a fantastic writer and her other books have been firmly placed on the top of my To Read List after this. Highly, highly, highly recommended!

I gave Sparrow Hill Road 5 stars

jeudi 18 septembre 2014

The Widow's House by Daniel Abraham

Spurned by the one woman he has ever loved, Lord Regent Geder Palliako intensifies his war, pushing his men into battle in the name of vengeance. Accompanying her son, who leads the Regent’s army, Clara Kalliam, loyal to the throne but traitor to the man, struggles to balance the woman she used to be with the woman she wants to become. Cithin bel Sarcour, the Regent’s obsession, finds herself trapped in Porte Oliva as the priests of the spider goddess close in. And Captain Marcus Wester discovers the truth about the past as dragons fly in the skies once again…

The Tyrant’s Law ended on one hell of a cliffhanger as Marcus Wester and the renegade priest Kit awoke the last surviving dragon, unleashing the ancient race on the world once more. The Widow’s House picks up the threads in the aftermath of those events, bringing Geder’s growing obsession with Cithrin to a head and intensifying the war that has been building over the past couple of books. Once again, Daniel Abraham does a fantastic job juggling all the different characters, twisting events in ways that are both unexpected and refreshing, and setting things up for the final few books. The truth behind the origin of the war is surprising, as is the decisions made by Clara and Cithrin, but it all remains true to the story and to the people that Abraham has gone to such lengths to create. The worldbuilding continues to grow in complexity and depth, giving The Dagger and the Coin series a breadth that the first volume may have lacked. More importantly, Cithrin grows closer to the character we have been expecting, giving new meaning to the series title. All in all, a fine continuation of an unlauded epic fantasy series.
I gave The Widow’s House 4 stars.

mercredi 17 septembre 2014

Nice Dragons Finish Last by Rachel Aaron

When Julius Heartstriker – youngest and smallest dragon of his clan – is banished to the Detroit Free Zone and trapped in human form by his mother, he is given a month to prove that he can live up to the ruthless ambitious predators that form his family. If he doesn’t, at best he will be trapped in human form forever. At worst… In a city of modern magicians and run by a vengeful spirit who has no patience for dragons, though, Julius soon discovers that he needs a lot of help if he is to survive. But putting his trust in humans may be more complicated than he at first thought…

I don’t know if it is fair to call Rachel Aaron a rising star in the SFF genre anymore – after a fantasy series (completed), a space opera trilogy (completed) and now the beginning of an urban fantasy series starring dragons, she is definitely an established member of the firmament. Although I am ashamed to say I have not read her fantasy series, I devoured the space opera trilogy she released earlier in the year and this new urban fantasy went straight to the top of the TBR list. It was definitely worth it. Starring a young dragon trapped in human form by his mother, Nice Dragons Finish Last is an almost perfect urban fantasy set in a post-apocalyptic type future where magic has returned on the wings of an asteroid impact, unleashing fairy creatures of all description on the Earth. Amongst those are the dragons, ancient beings who have lain in wait for this return and are now returning to their place at the top of the food chain. Julius, unfortunately, is not a particularly well considered specimen of dragonkind, but through the book he learns to embrace his flaws as strengths, proving himself to his family and the human allies he has surrounded himself with. Nice Dragons Finish Last works as a fantastic coming of age tale as well as an urban fantasy, employing a number of exciting set pieces and unfolding a vast array of worldbuilding to fantastic effect. Aaron knows how to tell a fantastic story and she proves that once again here. Highly recommended! 

I gave Nice Dragons Finish Last 5 stars

mardi 16 septembre 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Authors I've Only Read One Book From But NEED to Read More

This week's theme: Top Ten Authors I've Only Read One Book From But NEED to Read More. I thought this was going to be difficult but it turns out there are a LOT of authors I've only read one book from! Time to update the old To Be Read List!

Top Ten Authors I've Only Read One Book From But NEED to Read More

Seanan McGuire

I just finished Sparrow Hill Road (which I loved) and have added all of her books to the top of my TR list for the next few months. How I had not heard about her before now is beyond me!

J.A. Konrath

I was an afficianado of Konrath’s blog for a long time a few years ago and yet I have only read one of his books – The List, back in 2010. I really enjoyed it but never got round to reading any more.

Mike Carey

Again, this dates back to 2010, when I read The Devil You Know. Other series got in the way, though, so I never continued with his Felix Castor novels, something I am definitely going to have to rectify in the future.

David Anthony Durham

Acacia was a fantastic fantasy debut and one of the first books I ever wrote a review about. Unfortunately, I never got around to continuing with the series. They are on my TR list but have been pushed down time and time again. Hopefully I’ll get to them sometime next year!

James Ellroy

The Black Dahlia is my only novel of his I have read. I have Perfidia on my immediate TR list so I will probably have read a second book by this time next month!

Paolo Bacigalupi

A hugely entertaining and mind-bending sci-fi novel, I never got around to reading anything more after The Windup Girl. I will definitely rectify this when his new novel – The Water Knife – comes out next year.

Guillermo del Toro

You would think that with all the hype about the TV series recently I would have gotten around to reading beyond the first book of The Strain, but unfortunately not.

Elizabeth Bear

I had heard so many good things about the Eternal Sky series but only got around to reading the first book in the series earlier this year. Definitely one to follow!

Robert S Redick

Another long-ago debut, The Red Wolf Conspiracy has everything I like in fantasy – a weird world with steampunk leanings, interesting characters and an intriguing plot. I think it was the length of the follow-ups that meant I never got around to reading them but I hope to get on with them next year.

Brian Staveley

Staveley’s The Emperors’ Blades was probably my favourite fantasy debut of the year. I have not read anything else by him for the simple reason that he hasn’t released the follow-up yet. It will be at the top of my TR list as soon as it comes out early 2015. 

Which authors have you only read one book from but want or need to read more? Share below in the comments!