Stuff on Sundays: 2019 Hugo Award Finalists Announced

Best Novel

• The Calculating Stars, by Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor)

• Record of a Spaceborn Few, by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton / Harper Voyager)

• Revenant Gun, by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris)

• Space Opera, by Catherynne M. Valente (Saga)

• Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik (Del Rey / Macmillan)

• Trail of Lightning, by Rebecca Roanhorse (Saga)

Best Series

• The Centenal Cycle, by Malka Older (Tor.com Publishing)

• The Laundry Files, by Charles Stross (most recently Tor.com Publishing/Orbit)

• Machineries of Empire, by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris)

• The October Daye Series, by Seanan McGuire (most recently DAW)

• The Universe of Xuya, by Aliette de Bodard (most recently Subterranean Press)

• Wayfarers, by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton / Harper Voyager)

Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book

• The Belles, by Dhonielle Clayton (Freeform / Gollancz)

• Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi (Henry Holt / Macmillan Children’s Books)

• The Cruel Prince, by Holly Black (Little, Brown / Hot Key Books)

• Dread Nation, by Justina Ireland (Balzer + Bray)

• The Invasion, by Peadar O’Guilin (David Fickling Books / Scholastic)

• Tess of the Road, by Rachel Hartman (Random House / Penguin Teen)

See more Hugo Award Finalists

Who would you vote for?

Review: Smoke and Iron by Rachel Caine

 

Title: Smoke and Iron {The Great Library #4}

Author: Rachel Caine

Published: Berkley July 2018

Status: Read July 2018

++++++

My Thoughts:

Smoke and Iron is another fabulous instalment in Rachel Caine’s The Great Library young adult fantasy series, following Ink and Bone, Paper and Fire, and Ash and Quill.

“The Archivist made us into an ugly thing,… A thing that used fear to control the world. But we are not what he made us. We are more. We stand, unafraid. And together. Because we are the Great Library!”

In a world where book ownership is forbidden, the rebellion determined to free knowledge from the Archivist’s Iron grip, and save The Great Library, is about to spill in to war.

The story picks up almost immediately following the events of Ash and Quill. This instalment unfolds from the viewpoints of Jess, Morgan, Khalila, and Wolfe. While Jess (impersonating his twin brother, Brendan) endeavours to learn the Archivist’s secrets, Morgan has returned to the Obscurist’s Iron Tower seeking vulnerabilities she can exploit. Meanwhile Wolfe struggles to hold onto his sanity deep in the cells of Alexandria, and Khalila does her best to keep her friends, and their mission, safe and on track.

The plot is fast paced and tension filled. Each member of the rebel group has an important part to play in preparation for the coming Feast of Greater Burning, the stakes are higher, and the risks greater, than ever.

The final book in this series, Sword and Pen, is not expected to be published until 2020. Such a long time to wait!

++++++

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Review: First Watch by Dale Lucas

Title: First Watch {The Fifth Ward #1}

Author: Dale Lucas

Published: Orbit, July 2017

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read April 4th-6th 2018

My Thoughts:

First Watch is not something I would generally pick up, however my fourteen year old son is an a fan of Fantasy fiction, and an ardent Dungeons and Dragons player, so I bought this for him. Like me, my son is a ‘reader’, he is part of a book club at school, and for school sport does ‘Reading by the River’ – where the only physical activity involves the 15 minute walk to, and from, the riverbank. He also likes to discuss what he reads, so I thought I’d give this a go.

First Watch is the start of Dale Lucas’s series, The Fifth Ward. It’s essentially a murder mystery set in a medieval fantasy world populated by “drug dealing orcs, mind-controlling elves, uncooperative mages, and humans being typical humans”, amongst others.

Our heroes are Torval, “a dwarf who’s handy with a maul and known for hitting first and asking questions later”, and Remeck, a runaway nobleman from the North.

When Torvals’s Watch Warden partner, Freygaf is murdered, he and Rem team up to trawl the underbelly of Yenara, a largely iniquitous port city, to find his killer. The pairs’ investigation leads them through the city’s Wards, exposing all manner of vice and corruption, including a vile human trafficking ring.

Our heroes are Torval, “a dwarf who’s handy with a maul and known for hitting first and asking questions later”, and Remeck, a runaway nobleman from the North.

Torval is the cynical, grumpy elder, and Rem the wide eyed ingenu, resulting in moments of humour in the vein of ‘mismatched cop buddy’ stories everywhere. I liked both characters, though neither were particularly surprising, nor unique.

While the main plot involves Torval and Rem’s search for Freygaf’s killer, they are often sidetracked by their work as Watch Wardens, the complicated politics of the city, and the occasional bar brawl and street fights. I thought Lucas did a decent job of bringing all the threads together to create a cohesive story.

I found the pace a little uneven in First Watch though, partly I suspect because of Lucas’s need to establish the world and its rules. At times the exposition got in the way of the story’s rhythm, and I found myself skimming on occasion.

Unsurprisingly, my son enjoyed this more than I did. He especially liked it’s D&D flavour. I thought it was okay.

Review: The Map of Bones by Francesca Haig

 

Title: The Map of Bones {The Fire Sermon #2}

Author: Francesca Haig

Published: Harper Voyager March 2016

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from May 29 to June 01, 2016 — I own a copy courtesy HarperCollins

My Thoughts:

The Map of Bones picks up from where Francesca Haig’s debut novel, The Fire Sermon, left off. Cass, Piper and Zoe are on the run following the deadly confrontation at the Silo between the Confessor and Kip, with the knowledge of the Alpha Council’s horrifying plan for the Omega’s.

Despite the dramatic ending of The Fire Sermon, the narrative in The Map of Bones is slow to start. We’re almost a quarter of the way into the book before Haig introduces a new element to the story that finally prompts the characters to take action. From there the pace begins to pick up as Cass and her allies recognise the need to actively stand against the Council and pursue a new possibility for salvation despite the odds that are stacked again them.

I wasn’t really a fan of Cass in the first novel and I found her to be no less frustrating here. Drowning in guilt and struggling with her visions, her thoughts are often repetitive and circular. Piper and Zoe serve as good companions but I found neither character to be particularly compelling.

What I did admire was Haig’s descriptive writing and continued world building. She provides further detail about the cataclysmic events that destroyed the world and the twinning phenomenon.

Though I found The Map of Bones to be a somewhat dreary read, the story ends on a hopeful note and I am curious to learn how the trilogy will resolve in book three.

Available to purchase from

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A thought about: The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood

 

Title: The Natural Way of Things

Author: Charlotte Wood

Published: Allen & Unwin October 2015

Status: Read from October 26 to 27, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

Two women awaken from a drugged sleep to find themselves imprisoned in an abandoned property in the middle of a desert in a story of two friends, sisterly love and courage – a gripping, starkly imaginative exploration of contemporary misogyny and corporate control, and of what it means to hunt and be hunted.

She hears her own thick voice deep inside her ears when she says, ‘I need to know where I am.’ The man stands there, tall and narrow, hand still on the doorknob, surprised. He says, almost in sympathy, ‘Oh, sweetie. You need to know what you are.’

Two women awaken from a drugged sleep to find themselves imprisoned in a broken-down property in the middle of nowhere. Strangers to each other, they have no idea where they are or how they came to be there with eight other girls, forced to wear strange uniforms, their heads shaved, guarded by two inept yet vicious armed jailers and a ‘nurse’. The girls all have something in common, but what is it? What crime has brought them here from the city? Who is the mysterious security company responsible for this desolate place with its brutal rules, its total isolation from the contemporary world? Doing hard labour under a sweltering sun, the prisoners soon learn what links them: in each girl’s past is a sexual scandal with a powerful man. They pray for rescue — but when the food starts running out it becomes clear that the jailers have also become the jailed. The girls can only rescue themselves.

My Thoughts:

A thought provoking, provocative novel that explores a chilling near-future dystopia drawn from the realities of contemporary society for women. Beautifully written but deeply disquieting.

 

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A thought about: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

 

Title: Carry On

Author: Rainbow Rowell

Published: Pan Macmillan October 2015

Status: Read from October 08 to 10, 2015 — I own a copy

Simon Snow just wants to relax and savor his last year at the Watford School of Magicks, but no one will let him. His girlfriend broke up with him, his best friend is a pest, and his mentor keeps trying to hide him away in the mountains where maybe he’ll be safe. Simon can’t even enjoy the fact that his roommate and longtime nemesis is missing, because he can’t stop worrying about the evil git. Plus there are ghosts. And vampires. And actual evil things trying to shut Simon down. When you’re the most powerful magician the world has ever known, you never get to relax and savor anything. Carry On is a ghost story, a love story, a mystery and a melodrama. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story — but far, far more monsters.

My Thoughts:

In Rainbow Rowell’s novel Fangirl, the central protagonist, Cath, wrote fan fiction about a fictional novel with strong similarities to JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series . I have to admit I wasn’t really keen on the excerpts in the novel, but I was curious to see how Rowell turned the story into a novel. Carry On turned out to be a lot of fun, I enjoyed the characters and their adventures, and Rowell’s own twists to a very familiar story.

 

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Review: Queen of Shadows by Sarah J Maas

 

Title: Queen of Shadows {Throne of Glass #4)

Author: Sarah J Maas

Published: Bloomsbury September 2015

Status: Read from September 01 to 03, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

“She was fire, and light, and ash, and embers. She was Aelin Fireheart, and she bowed for no one and nothing, save the crown that was hers by blood and survival and triumph.”

Queen of Shadows is the fourth book in Sarah J Maas’s riveting fantasy adventure series, Throne of Glass. At just over 650 pages, this is an epic installment offering plenty of intrigue, danger, fast paced action and romance.

In Queen of Shadows, our heroine returns to Rifthold, not as the assassin Celaena Sardothien, but as Aelin Galathynius, rightful heir to the throne of Terrasen, determined to put an end to the King and his alliance with the demon Valg. Her first task is to rescue her cousin Aedion from public execution, her second to destroy Arobynn, all the while plotting to free magic, save Dorian from Valg possession and ensure the safety of the people she loves.

In the interest of avoiding spoilers for fans of this gripping series I’m just going to heap general praise on it. The plot is fast paced and action packed with plenty of exciting confrontations that left me breathless. It is also clever, Maas allows Aelin to keep secrets not just from her friends but also from the reader resulting in some startling surprises. The plot twists and turns as Aelin doggedly pursues her goal, and the final confrontation between the Queen and her enemies was nothing short of epic.

Queen of Shadows embraces both old and new allies and enemies. Aelin’s loyal circle includes Aedion and fae warrior Rowan, Chaol, despite his emotional turmoil, rebel Nesryn, and courtesan Lysandra. I really enjoyed the shifting dynamics between all of these characters as the novel progressed.

Personally the fan driven controversy regarding Aelin’s romantic choices seems extreme to me, perhaps because I’m a mature aged reader I understand more clearly why Aelin and Chaol are no longer a good fit, and though I am not completely convinced Rowan is her soul mate, I do believe he is her ideal partner for the moment.

Though not truly an enemy, Dorian, inhabited by a Valg prince, is a wild card and Aelin struggles to decide how best to deal with him. She has no such hesitation when it comes to Arobynn when his true capacity for deceit is unequivocally revealed.

Aelin also shares the narrative with Manon Blackbeak who was introduced in Heir of Fire. Manon, a ruthless witch, is in Morath readying herself and her kind for battle on the side of the King, but she unexpectedly finds herself questioning orders at the urging of her second Aestrin, a crippled slave girl, Elide, and a young broken woman with an extraordinary ability.

Queen of Shadows is an enthralling read, and I resented having to put it down even briefly to attend to the ordinary demands of existence. It is going to be a longgg wait for the next (possibly final??) book.

Available to purchase from

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Read my reviews for the first three books in the series

Review: The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Title: The Invasion of the Tearling {Queen of the Tearling #2}

Author: Erika Johansen

Published: Bantam Press July 2015

Status: Read from July 19th to 23rd, 2015 – I own a copy {Courtesy the Publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

The Invasion of the Tearling is the sequel to Erika Johansen’s debut, The Queen of the Tearling.

Kelsea Glynn, now the reigning Queen of Tearling, is preparing for war with The Red Queen, having put a stop to the human tithing practiced by her country’s former rulers. As Mortmesme’s forces amass on the border, Kelsea struggles to determine a way for her vulnerable country to defend itself from the invasion while dealing with internal strife and the challenges of the kingdom.

‘Invasion’ also endeavours to explain the origins of the Tearling world, revealing the secrets of The Crossing, through crippling visions experienced by Kelsea. It’s quite an unusual story that reveals why Johansen’s world blends a feudal society and magic with reminders of modern life.

As a character, Kelsea undergoes some dramatic changes in this instalment, and not for the better. Haunted by the visions of Lily’s life, the visits of a mysterious dark spirit, and the seductive power of the emeralds, Kelsea becomes secretive and increasingly dark. I was disappointed by the inconsistencies and sometimes confused by her changing motivations.

I didn’t always find it easy to follow the narrative of The Invasion of the Tearling either. The shifts between Kelsea’s world and her visions of Lily’s were sometimes jarring, additionally there were a couple of minor story threads that seemed to dissolve into nothing, while others contributed little to the overall story. I’m also at a loss to understand Kelsea’s physical changes, which seem rather absurd.

The Invasion of the Tearling builds to a confrontation between Kelsea and The Red Queen but again ends with more questions than answers. I’m curious as to how Johansen will choose to end things in the final book of the trilogy, but I’m worried she will be unable to pull everything together in a satisfying manner.

Available to purchase from

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Review: The Darkling Child by Terry Brooks

 

Title: The Darkling Child {The Defenders of Shannara Trilogy #2}

Author: Terry Brooks

Published: Hachette June 2015

Status: Read from June 08 to 10, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

High Fantasy is not a genre I read often but I have fond memories of Terry Brooks’ original Shannara trilogy, read when I was a teen, and I’m looking forward to the upcoming television series adaption.

Though it can be read as a standalone, The Darkling Child is the second novel in The Defenders of Shannara trilogy that takes place several years after the previous book, The High Druid’s Blade. It is also the 29th book in the Shannara saga, which Brooks intends to wrap up in just four more books.

The Defenders of Shannara features Paxon Leah, the Druid’s Blade, and his nemesis, the Sorcerer Arcannen. In the Darkling Child, Arcannen who has been in hiding since Paxon foiled his grand plans for dominion over the Four Lands, is seeking revenge after his refuge is razed to the ground by an elite command of Federation soldiers. Fortuitously Arcannen stumbles across Reyn, a young man with the rare power of the Wishsong. Reyn neither understands nor can control his ability, and when Arcannen offers to mentor him, he accepts.
Meanwhile the Druid Council is alerted to the use of Wishsong and Paxon along with Druid Avelina are dispatched to find the magic user. Unfortunately they are too late to prevent Reyn from falling under Arcannen’s influence but they are determined to thwart whatever nefarious plan Arcannen is using Reyn for.

Even with only vague memories of the Original Shannara series, The Darkling Child feels familiar. Brooks’s world is easy to understand, the magic system makes sense, and there is enough backstory provided to create context where needed.

The plot involves fantasy’s most enduring trope, a quest to prevent evil triumphing over good. Arcannen is a suitably ruthless, if uncomplicated villain and Paxon a valiant, if flawed, hero. There is plenty of action in the confrontations between the sorcerer and his enemies, a small measure of intrigue stemming from the question of Lariana’s true motives, and a dose of emotion with death, guilt and romance.

I found The Darkling Child to be a quick and entertaining read but I’m not struck with the urge to continue with the trilogy. Fans may be more appreciative.

Available to purchase from

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Review: Ascendance by John Birmingham

 

Title: Ascendance {Dave Hooper #3}

Author: John Birmingham

Published: PanMacmillan May 2015

Status: Read from May 28 to 30, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

The final novel to feature rig engineer turned superhero monster slayer Dave Cooper, Ascendance picks up right where Resistance left off.

Super Dave, newly teamed with the katana wielding Russian spy Karen Warat (aka Colonel Ekatarina Varatchevsky), is in New York. Dismissing Trinder, they race to defend areas of the city under siege but are nearly overwhelmed as the Hunn continue boiling up from the underworld realm. The powers that be soon realise that the Horde is using Professor Compton’s theoretical model for collapsing western civilisation, and the world is in real peril. However Dave’s primary concern becomes his sons when he learns New Harbour is under attack and if he can’t save the world, he is determined to at least save his children.

Dave suffers badly in comparison to Karen whose training and discipline allows her to exploit her gifts, which includes an empathic ability. Not only does she wield her deadly katana like a master, she thinks strategically and seems to have her powers sussed out. Dave is pretty much left trailing in her wake like a meat-head while the choices he made in Resistance come back to haunt him.

The action in Ascendance is non-stop, violent and bloody. This is not a story for the squeamish what with splattering ichor and demon flesh and babies being tossed from buildings like confetti. To be honest I got a little bored with all the fighting, though the final confrontation was tense and exciting.

There is plenty of the bold and crass humour I’ve come to expect in this series. Dave is still a dick, Threshy’s thinkings are riotously confused and Karen adds her own brand of dry humour.

While this is supposed to be last book of a trilogy, the story definitely feels unfinished. It has been fun though.

 

Available to purchase from

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