Monthly Archives:: May 2017

Urban fantasy review: ‘Rivers of Hell’ by Marina Finlayson

May 25, 2017 Review 0

This is the third of the Shadows of the Immortals series, and it’s another action-packed and dramatic installment. This one is, as you might suspect from the title, set in the underworld, as Lexi and friends try to remove the magical collars that restrict the powers of god Apollo and Lexi’s cat-shifter friend, Syl. As always, there are plenty of twists and turns along the way, and Lexi and hot fireshaper Jake inch a little closer towards the inevitable romance.

Now, I’m going to be honest. I’ve never read a bad book by Finlayson yet, and this one doesn’t break that winning streak. It’s the usual well-written roller-coaster ride, lurching from one crisis to the next, yet always in a way that makes total sense within this world, and with that trade-mark Aussie humour – lovely! But…

It lacks many of the elements that made the previous two books amongst my favourite reads. Lexi’s ability to communicate with animals, for instance, which produced some creative moments in the first two books, is very muted in the underworld (with one glorious exception). Then there are those delightful thought-conversations with cat-Syl, which so enchanted me. None of that here. And finally, that tantalising backstory about Lexi’s mum – where is she? Why is everything different in her home town? I really, really, really wanted to know about that, and with Lexi stuck in the underworld, that didn’t happen. All of this is perfectly understandable, but disappointing.

So this was still a very enjoyable read, and highly recommended, but for my personal choice, I’d have liked a touch less relentless action and a little more of the quirky charm. Four stars.

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Review: ‘Dark Voyage’ by Alan Furst

May 25, 2017 Review 0

My book group throws up a mixed bag of reading materials, and I never quite know what I’m going to get. This one seemed most unpromising at first glance: a war-era story of spies and secret missions aboard a Dutch freighter commandeered by British intelligence. Um… not really my thing. But after I chickened out of a few, I’m determined to have a crack at everything from now on so I settled down to read.

And (surprise!) I really enjoyed it. It’s very much a boy’s own adventure, with lots of creeping about in the dark, secretly repainting the ship to disguise it (not an easy task), and never quite knowing who is on who’s side or what the ultimate objective is. There are some truly thrilling moments steering through minefields or arriving at a neutral port to find that it’s changed allegiance overnight. There are also laugh-out-loud funny moments, as when the supposed Spanish captain (in fact a very lowly crew member) is produced for the benefit of a German U-boat, and turns out to be gloriously drunk. I didn’t follow all the wartime nuances, but it didn’t much matter.

The main character, phlegmatic Dutchman Eric DeHaan, resignedly does everything that’s asked of him, even the obviously suicide-mission final job, in the desire to do his bit for the war effort. His motley crew of many nationalities goes along with it too, in the main, with only a couple making a run for freedom. There’s a gratuitous little romance, which never really rang true, and an oddly unexplained spy who’s important enough to be ferried around Europe, but then vanishes again at the end (this is a motif of the author’s, apparently, and the character turns up in multiple books). And although I’m far from an expert, the historical and nautical details were utterly convincing to me. An enjoyable read. Four stars.

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I’m in SPFBO! Again!

May 15, 2017 SPFBO, The Dragon's Egg 2

For the third year running, Mark Lawrence (author of the Broken Empire series) is organising a contest for self-published authors. He’s rounded up 10 bloggers who read and review fantasy books, usually traditionally published, and 300 books submitted by self-published authors, and thrown the two groups together. Each blogger gets a ‘slush pile’ of 30 books to whittle down over six months to just one to go forward into the final. Then the ten bloggers read all ten finalists and score them, to come up with an overall winner.

And for the third year running, I’ve submitted one of my books. The first year, Bookworm Blues blogger Sarah Chorn looked at The Plains of Kallanash (she gave it 3/5 stars). The second year, Sarah looked at The Mages of Bennamore (she gave it 3/5 stars – I think we can see a pattern here!). This year, I’ve submitted The Dragon’s Egg, and it’s landed at The Quillery. This is a joint operation, so the books will be looked at by four different bloggers, which seems to me like a good system. Frankly, thirty books is just too much of a workload for an individual blogger to be expected to tackle.

There are some great books on the list this year (translation: the competition is very, very stiff). There’s a cover competition, too, and naturally I’m hoping my shiny new Deranged Doctor cover will rate a mention. As for the book, I’ve never expected to win, or even get to the final ten (did I mention, the competition’s very stiff?). My objective is purely to have the book read objectively by someone who normally reads only traditionally published books, who will measure my work by that standard. Nothing more or less than that. The Quillery have said they will read the first fifty pages or so of every book in their group, and decide what interests them enough to read the rest of from that, so of course I’d love to be one of those selected. But if they decide The Dragon’s Egg doesn’t interest them, so be it.

Whatever happens, it’s a great idea, and I’m thrilled to be part of SPFBO once again. If you want to follow along, you can see what’s happening on Mark Lawrence’s blog or on the site of one of the bloggers taking part, Booknest.eu.

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Authors answer 21: What is your ultimate goal with your writing? Fame? Fortune? Changing the world?

May 5, 2017 AuthorsAnswer 0

This is going to sound like a cop-out, but I really don’t have a goal except to get the books out there in the world where they can be read.

Fame? No, absolutely not! {Shudder} I’m the ultimate reclusive writer. I haven’t even told most of my real life friends or family that I write. It amuses me, actually, to meet people on a regular basis who have no idea at all about it. We have the usual back and forth — how are you, what have you been up to, oh, nothing much — and I could say, well, I published my fourteenth book the other day, so bit of a celebration, and I have a promotion on the box set and then there’s the audio… But I never do.

Fortune? A little bit more money never goes amiss, but I wouldn’t want enough to need accountants and investment advisers and all that good stuff.

Changing the world? That would be presumptuous. I write to entertain people, and if my books take readers to another place for a few hours, then that’s as much as I aspire to.

Footnote: Authors Answer is the brainchild of blogger Jay Dee Archer, of I Read Encyclopedias For Fun. You can read the answers to this question by his eclectic bunch of authors here. More recently, Erica Dakin, of the Theft And Sorcery blog, has been answering the questions independently. You can read her answer to this question here.

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