Ink and Bone – a review

It seems that my reading has found a theme…for now. Books. Or rather novels in which Books play a central role, like today’s review, Rachel Caine’s Ink and Bone, and my current read (and next review), The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. However, I don’t intend to move on from there to Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 or Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose – well not yet. (Those two are both influences already though not as a reader.)

Anyway, on to the review:

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Ink and Bone (The Great Library #1) by Rachel Caine 

In an exhilarating new series, New York Times bestselling author Rachel Caine rewrites history, creating a dangerous world where the Great Library of Alexandria has survived the test of time.…

Ruthless and supremely powerful, the Great Library is now a presence in every major city, governing the flow of knowledge to the masses. Alchemy allows the Library to deliver the content of the greatest works of history instantly—but the personal ownership of books is expressly forbidden.

Jess Brightwell believes in the value of the Library, but the majority of his knowledge comes from illegal books obtained by his family, who are involved in the thriving black market. Jess has been sent to be his family’s spy, but his loyalties are tested in the final months of his training to enter the Library’s service.

When his friend inadvertently commits heresy by creating a device that could change the world, Jess discovers that those who control the Great Library believe that knowledge is more valuable than any human life—and soon both heretics and books will burn…

Ink and Bone” was a novel that I couldn’t stop reading from the moment that the blurb hooked my attention. This is an alternative history based around a radical shift in events two millennia ago, when the first burning of the Library at Alexandria took place.

This alternative history’s direction has been dictated by the Great Library, who controls everyone’s lives through their stranglehold on knowledge. We are used to having books all around us, freely available – well in fact not everywhere. But this situation is frighteningly different and Rachel Caine has created a believable society, with a clever twist on how people read – or don’t.

The twists and deceptions kept me thinking, but this novel was very readable and everything made sense – in its parallel world way. Everyone had some sort of relationship with books, and those interactions dictated their roles and how the Great Library viewed them. Whether the authorities know about Jess Brightwell ’s smuggling background is a crucial plot element – information rules.

The descriptions of Jess and his fellow students at the Great Library draw you into their lives and concerns. The machinations of the Great Library mean that you can never be sure who to trust, or even who will survive to enter the Library’s service.

Ink and Bone reaches a chilling conclusion that sets up Book 2 Paper and Fire with plenty of questions to motivate reading on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hunger – a review

I don’t normally read books for teens, but the blurb for “Hunger” and a review made me buy this excellent as part of Pub Hub’s Buy Diverse Books offer in June. The mix of apocalypse and eating disorder had me hooked, and could prove useful – my character Twyla Locke, in “Fates Maelstrom”, has an illness that could be an eating disorder, or not.

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Hunger (Riders of the Apocalypse #1)

by Jackie Morse Kessler

“Thou art the Black Rider. Go thee out unto the world.”

Lisabeth Lewis has a black steed, a set of scales, and a new job: she’s been appointed Famine. How will an anorexic seventeen-year-old girl from the suburbs fare as one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse?

Traveling the world on her steed gives Lisa freedom from her troubles at home: her constant battle with hunger, and her struggle to hide it from the people who care about her. But being Famine forces her to go places where hunger is a painful part of everyday life, and to face the horrifying effects of her phenomenal power. Can Lisa find a way to harness that power — and the courage to battle her own inner demons?

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“Hunger” not only satisfied me as a reader, but also tackled the issue of eating disorders in a clever yet informative way. This was much more than a fantasy read, and yet it was never preachy. Although I have known people that were anorexic, this took me into the mind-set of a girl battling with a too-common teenage problem, with an added touch of allegory that worked brilliantly.

From the opening moments when Lisa had to deal with her appropriate appointment as Famine, her thought processes were confused as she tried to absorb the new role into her troubled social life. The tense family situation and her fragile friendships seemed realistic, with her struggles over food ever present and understandable, given the pressures to fit the norm.

But the illness of anorexia nervosa is part of Lisa’s personality and life, never a tedious lecture from the author. Jackie Morse Kessler has experienced eating disorders first hand, so that authenticity blends well with the unfolding tale. The ‘Thin Voice’ that drives Lisa’s insecurity becomes not just Lisa’s alter-ego but also a central antagonist.

The writing is a strong mix of teenage distractions, psychological tribulations and fantastical challenges. Some readers might wonder why Lisa’s actions as Famine, especially her final decision, are somewhat illogical at times. She’s supposed to be Famine, so why is she doing that…? Because this is her take on Famine, perhaps.

Throughout the novel, my mind kept flipping between ‘this is a real fantasy’ and ‘this is in her confused mind’. How much is the calling to be one of the Four Horseman in her head? Perhaps that is why Death appears in the form of Kurt Cobain and plays Nirvana numbers on his guitar – that’s her take on Death.

After this engrossing opening novel, I’m intrigued to read the second Riders of the Apocalypse book, “Rage”, to see how Jackie Morse Kessler handles the next appointee and her self-mutilation.

 

SPOILER WARNING: It’s only when Lisa faces her greatest nemesis, a fellow Horseman, that she can finally confront the ‘Thin voice’ and her illness. Maybe that is what Lisa gain from her appointment as Famine.

 

 

Dying for a Living Boxset – a review

Time for another review, this time of a Boxset, usually a daunting reading prospect and yet a great way to tackle a series. However, they are hard to review without giving away too much, so beware there may be spoilers ahead.

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“This boxset includes the first three novels in the Jesse Sullivan series, for one lower price. Books Dying Light (Book 4) and Worth Dying For (Book 5) are not included.

Fans of contemporary and urban fantasy will enjoy this series. Don’t be surprised to find dark humor, lots of snark, and a murder mystery, all wrapped up in a single thrilling, action-packed narrative.

Called “addictive” by New York Times Bestseller Darynda Jones, those interested in strong female protagonists are sure to take a shine to Jesse Sullivan, the reluctant anti-hero of the series.”

 

As I said when I reviewed the first novel in the Jesse Sullivan series, I was “hooked from the first few words of the blurb”, immersing myself in the light-hearted style the author used. The opening novel portrays a quirky heroine, a young woman that dies for a living, a ‘necronite’. who can be sarcastic in the face of death.

I liked Jesse and warmed to her, her kooky habits, like wearing shoes that didn’t match, and to her best friend, lover, and sidekick, Ally Gallagher. Their relationship is complicated not only by Lane, Jesse’s comic-store running boyfriend, but also by the attempts to kill her for good. Yes, ‘necronites’ can die in certain circumstances, so I was never able to relax and think that Jesse would always survive.

The tone of the first novel might have been light-hearted, with great humour, but it had darker moments especially towards the end as we discover who is opposed to the ‘necronites’. Book 2 builds on all the elements, with Jesse and her friends in mounting danger. Without spoilers, I can say that everything I enjoyed about Book 1 is there as we learn more about the dangers they face.

I found the writing swept me along with its mix of humour and mounting threat. Jesse’s relationships complicate events, and this area of personal conflict – told from her first person perspective and from Ally’s 1st POV – worked well. The sexual dilemmas felt realistic, even if the lesbian emotions and thoughts were outside my experience. However, unsurprisingly when you read her bio, Kory M. Shrum captures this with taste and style.

The third novel departs from the first two Books, in being told from the perspective of Jesse’s boss Brinkley. In many ways this darker Book is backstory to the events in the opening two volumes, and yet it closes at the same point as Book 2. As I read the revelations, I was even more engrossed in the characters. Gradually, I began to realise that there was a whole side to events that neither Jesse nor Ally were aware of. After reading Book 2, I was ready to take a break from the series, but now that I have learned so much more, I want more.

One niggling problem is the antagonist, whose abilities reminded me as the Books progressed of a successful TV show that aired from 2006 to 2010. That will stop me re-reading the three Books, although not from tackling the next one. Maybe the protagonist will change in ways that I can’t envisage.

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Here is the link to my 23 Jun. 2015 four star review on Amazon for Book 1 Dying for a Living (Kindle Edition). I wrote…

Chuckled as she died

“Hooked when I read the first few words of the blurb for “Dying for a Living”, I was unable to put down this first novel in the Jesse Sullivan series.

“On the morning before her 67th death, it is business as usual for Jesse Sullivan: meet with the mortician, counsel soon-to-be-dead clients, and have coffee while reading the latest regeneration theory. Jesse dies for a living, literally.”

You have to read on, especially when confronted with Jesse, a ‘necronite’ that can be sarcastic in the face of death. The irritation was more amusement than frustration, as I had to keep laughing and loving her. The light-hearted style and the humour seeps through the novel, especially when Jesse’s clients make such comments as: “Ms Sullivan is like a human Chihuahua who barks at anything that moves.”

There are other well-portrayed characters, like Ally her assistant/lover/friend, and Lane her comic-store running boyfriend, and her boss Brinkley. Their contribution is crucial to the unfolding story in which someone is trying to kill Jesse and her necronite colleagues. And yes, necronites can die if they lose their head. Literally.”

 

#IWSG – Best Thing Ever Said…

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group Day, and from today onwards the group are revving up IWSG Day to make it more fun and interactive!

Every month, they’ll announce a question that members can answer in the IWSG Day post. These questions may prompt us to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. So on to the JULY 6th QUESTION:

What’s the best thing someone has ever said about your writing?

My immediate thought was of some of the motivational words that my IWSG critique partners had written about my writing – helpful in getting me progressing stalled projects. That should have applied to the encouraging comments from the first professional editor to appraise one of my draft novels. However, I still need to apply those constructive but daunting suggestions.

So I’ve decided that one of the good reviews that I received for “Spiral of Hooves” comes in at number one. I would have chosen one of the Five star reviews on Amazon, but they got removed when the book ceased being available – and I’ve mislaid the file where I saved them.

No matter, Goodreads has seven still accessible, from the weird one star one that said, “It’s missing an understanding of the horse world that makes someone who is immersed in it want to read the book”, to the four star ones that felt that I demonstrated my knowledge. Yes, I was a professional equestrian journalist – or was that in another life?

Anyway here’s one of the best extracts:

“Spiral of Hooves is a great book for horse lovers who also love thriller or crime novels. The plot has several twists and turns, the characters are rich, and the author’s in depth knowledge of the world of eventing brings the story to life.

Arguably one of the best things about this book is the writing of the riding scenes. They are authentic, realistic, and incredibly well written. The reader is brought with over every jump and through every turn.”

What more can I say? Was I right to feel chuffed and inspired? Dare I attempt a better sequel?

Spiral of Hooves

Cover credit: Danielle Sands

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The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group Day. We post our thoughts on our own blogs. We talk about our doubts and the fears we have conquered. We discuss our struggles and triumphs. We offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling.

Please visit others in the group and connect with my fellow writers.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter hashtag is #IWSG

And be sure to check out our Facebook group –https://www.facebook.com/groups/IWSG13/

Our revved up IWSG Day question may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

The awesome co-hosts for this July 6 posting of the IWSG are Yolanda Renee, Tyrean Martinson, Madeline Mora-Summonte , LK Hill, Rachna Chhabria, and JA Scott!