Air and Ash – a review

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This is the second of my new Thursday Creation Review posts which will usually be Books, but I am still reserving the right to review Games, Films or other Works of Art – and I will add music to that.

Alex Lidell’s Tides is a series of books that has been on my Want To Read list for too long – and then I won Book 3, Sea and Sand (#3) in a Goodreads Giveaway. First, though, I read and reviewed First Command (TIDES, # 0.5), which was an absorbing taster that introduced me to the main character of Lieutenant Nile Greysik and her world.

The author kindly provided me with Book 1 of the series, and this is my extended review.

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Air and Ash (TIDES #1)

by

Alex Lidell (Goodreads Author)

Born to privilege.
Trained for command.
Destined for danger.

After a lifetime of training, seventeen-year-old Princess Nile Greysik, a lieutenant on the prestigious Ashing navy flagship, sails into battle with one vital mission–and fails.

Barred from the sea and facing a political marriage, Nile masquerades as a common sailor on the first ship she can find. With a cowardly captain, incompetent crew, and a cruel, too-handsome first officer intent on making her life a living hell, Nile must hide her identity while trying to turn the sorry frigate battle worthy. Worse, a terrifying and forbidden magic now tingles in Nile’s blood. If anyone catches wind of who Nile is or what she can do, her life is over.

But when disaster threatens the ship, Nile may have no choice but to unleash the truth that will curse her future.

Review 4.3 stars

After reading First Command (TIDES, # 0.5), the taster that introduced me to Lieutenant Nile Greysik and her world, I had to read Tides #1. This book was provided by the author but without any requirements.

When Nile escapes her Royal obligations and masquerades as a common sailor, events conspire against her. The author ensures that the decks are stacked against Nile in unexpected ways that had me guessing where the story was heading. This was a slightly devious storyline although with few plotlines to misdirect the reader from a fast read.

The characters are varied, and some have complex personalities with backstories that are never totally revealed – there must be more to come. The cast hints at the world created from the political situation and attitudes to the crucial seafaring.

Alex Lidell’s well-imagined world blends seafaring and fantasy, and yet brings back memories of reading the Hornblower books in my teens – although it is wrong to compare the books. This protagonist is female, and the author builds on that – as well as the princess angle. But there is so much more – like magic being a very mixed curse. For Nile, this force that flows through her veins is a primary motivation – and not just for herself.

This is a world where magic is going underground through misunderstanding and a growing sense of discrimination. Attitudes, not just in magic, vary from nation to nation and between cultures. For instance, the Ashing royals serve in their navy, but in other states, the nobility and rich pamper themselves.

The social divide is clear, but onboard a ship there is promotion from the ranks. The nautical details rang true from my limited mucking-around-in-boats and from my copy of The Hornblower Companion. The confined space of a ship adds to the cruel pecking order. However, rank brings expectations as does Royal blood. Nile needs to judge who to trust beyond appearances if she is to complete her goals.

Where do events lead Nile? I’m giving nothing away – even if you keel-haul me – all I can say is ‘don’t expect all the threads to be tied up’. This entertaining read is Book 1 of a trilogy and you won’t want to stop. I’m not, although I must clear the reading decks so I can open War and Wind (#2) and the conclusion Sea and Sand (#3).

Recommended for those that enjoy their seafaring adventures spiced with fantasy – 4.3 stars adjusted to 4.

Story – four stars

Setting/World-building – four stars

Authenticity – four stars

Characters – five stars

Structure – four stars

Readability – five stars

Editing – four stars

First Command

Avalanche – a review

Kristina Stanley is one of my writing inspirations through her Stone Mountain mysteries. For the release of Avalanche in 2016, I ran her thoughts on ‘Writing A Series’ which encouraged me in writing my Welsh police procedural. Why I put off reading Avalanche until now is another mystery, especially as I rated the first two books as five stars each.

Anyway, that lapse is now corrected so here’s my review:

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Avalanche (A Stone Mountain Mystery #3)

by Kristina Stanley (Goodreads Author)

On a cold winter morning, the safe at Stone Mountain Resort is robbed, and Kalin Thompson’s brother, Roy, suspiciously disappears. As Director of Security, Kalin would normally lead the investigation, but when her brother becomes the prime suspect, she is ordered to stay clear.

The police and the president of the resort turn their sights on Kalin, who risks everything to covertly attempt to clear Roy’s name. As threats against her escalate, she moves closer to uncovering the guilty party. Is Kalin’s faith in her brother justified? Or will the truth destroy her?

Editorial Reviews:

“A mountain as deadly as it is majestic; characters far too familiar with the Seven Deadly Sins and murder—Kristina Stanley’s Avalanche has it all. This fast-paced mystery is as thrilling as a heart-stopping run down the slopes.” —Gail Bowen, author of the Joanne Kilbourn Shreve mysteries

“Layer upon layer, like snow building for an avalanche, Stanley weaves a story that keeps you guessing. You can’t turn the pages fast enough.” —Jeff Buick, author of Bloodline

“Avalanche smashes and uproots relationships in Stone Mountain Resort, leaving devastation in its wake. With as many layers as winter’s snow, this whodunit will keep you turning pages and guessing to the end.” —James M. Jackson, author of the Seamus McCree Series (less)

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Review – 5 stars

Although Kristina Stanley says at the end of the novel that she wrote Avalanche first, this became the third book in the series. Having read and enjoyed the first two Stone Mountain mysteries, I recommend them all and suggest reading them in order. Once again, Kalin Thompson is the main protagonist, but characters from previous books return and previous incidents are cleverly referred adding to the backstory.

From the fast-moving opening when Kalin’s brother, Roy, suspiciously disappears, the plot twists and turns with enough clues and suspects to keep the reader thinking to the end.

There are multiple suspects when the safe at Stone Mountain Resort is robbed, but with Ray as the prime suspect, Kalin must act covertly to clear his name. How she handles her discoveries and her torn feelings about her brother’s guilt drive the main thread of the novel.

The story is tightly plotted, well-structured and, as I noted down while reading, it’s ‘edge of my snowmobile tense’. There are various suspects when the Royal Canadian Mounted Police begin investigating from Ray to Kalin via other employees at Stone Mountain Resort. I kept wondering, ‘Who will be next?’, ‘Who is guilty of what?’ and ‘Who do you trust?’. Not only Kalin needed to be wary but others caught up in the events as the threat level escalated.

The suspects were gradually narrowed down, although there were enough remaining as the end drew near. Plus, the accusations against Kalin were ongoing, adding to the tension. Twists kept coming, leading to the final confrontation that I only half-guessed in advance. Key elements were cleverly foreshadowed.

The author’s characterisation is excellent in that everyone has something to distinguish them – even the lift-girl from New Zealand. The reader sees the other characters through Kalin’s eyes and through other characters’ viewpoint. The use of various POVs enhances the story and adds to the subplots, diversions and to the red herrings that I always enjoy in a mystery.

The resort offers an evocative setting and Kristina Stanley’s knowledge of that world rings true without creating unnecessary detail. From my time in Canada and my winters skiing on different hills, Stone Mountain Resort and the intrigues came alive for me.

Avalanche was a fast-paced and easy read, and, as I’ve come to expect from Kristina Stanley, and from Imajin Books, it’s well-edited. A definite recommendation if you want a pacey mystery. But read Descent and Blaze first for maximum enjoyment – not vital but best.

Story – five stars

Setting/World-building – five stars

Characters – five stars

Structure – five stars

Readability – five stars

Editing – five stars

 

Storming – a review

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Time for another review – Storming by K.M. Weiland – the third novel from a writer whose website is a mine of writing gems. Her fiction writing certainly demonstrates all the craft that she mentors on her website. So on to the review:

Storming lives up to the blurb that inspired me, “Cocky, funny, and full of heart, Storming is a jaunty historical/dieselpunk mash-up that combines rip-roaring adventure and small-town charm with the thrill of futuristic possibilities.”

I was hooked from the opening, when a young woman falls from the clouds in front of Hitch Hitchcock’s biplane. Hitch is a pilot protagonist who has run away from his past, but now has to face it head-on as he tries to “save his Nebraska hometown from storm-wielding sky pirates.”

The young woman, Jael is mysterious and spunky, and tied to the pirates, which is craftily revealed. I wanted Hitch and Jael to fall for each other, but nothing is ever so easy, especially in one of K.M Weiland’s novels. I gave up trying to suss out what was going to happen next – after getting caught out in her first novel, “Behold the Dawn” [another recommended read]. She knows exactly how to make the twists pay off.

All the characters are memorable, including the supporting cast – I could really visualise the Berringer brothers. The young boy Walter adds a strong thread that kept me on the edge of my Kindle as his story weaves throughout, and he adds to the exhilarating climax.

Having read a few ‘steampunk’ novels, I relished the sky pirates and their strange weather-controlling airship, and their unusual language. At first, Jael speaks only this language and a smattering of English words, adding to the mystery of her and her people. I sensed a Slavic origin, and have my own theories, but read the novel and form your own.

K.M Weiland has written yet another novel that demonstrates that she ‘practises what she preaches’.

 

 

 

Why read?

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It’s February 3rd and time for another Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly post. I may be Insecure but I’m putting aside the whining and complaining – for a few days at least.

Today I want to be positive and talk about the benefits of reading from a writer’s point of view. And by that I don’t mean just reading what you write, although as writers we should to do that a few times from a reader’s perspective.

For now, I’m talking about other books, not just for the sheer pleasure but for the lessons that we can learn. We can learn what works and what doesn’t from both great reads that keep us hooked from the first sentence, and from those shockers that are an endless struggle. In each novel there should be at least one lesson – even if it’s ‘make sure you use an editor’ or ‘flowing words are like magic’.

So what have I learned over the decades?

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Roger Woddis in 1986 – photo by BG

When I started out on my writer’s journey, my writing tutor, the late great Roger Woddis said that my writing suffered from too much ‘purple prose’. The problem stemmed from my passion for “Lord of the Rings” and the style of J.R.R. Tolkien. I was trying to emulate him without understanding the way that he used language. However, over the decades and with many re-reads, I am learning to see the master at work. And as I read other writers, I see that a writer can effectively use beautiful language without obscuring the meaning.

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The current lesson is about ‘Multiple POVs’, which is relevant since my current WIP, “Storms Compass”, tells the stories of various characters struggling to survive after a mega solar storm devastates the Earth. My critique partner suggested that I look at how Steve Harrison handles multiple viewpoints in TimeStorm”. The POVs each have their own chapter with the character’s name as the title. Each one feeds into the evolving plot, which has me gripped – so a review will follow very soon.  There is a main POV character and the other POVs add to his story.

I could go on, giving examples from books that I have read, but I want to end by directing you to K.M. Weiland, a writer whose website is an invaluable resource, and includes many articles that refer to novels and movies as examples. For instance, I am working through my character’s arcs at present, and she gives some great examples – see: http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/character-arcs-3/. This and other articles show the importance of reading other novels. The added bonus is that K.M Weiland writes novels in which she practices what she preaches, from her early novels Behold the Dawn and Dreamlander – both of which I enjoyed – to Storming, which is next on my To Read list.

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And beyond that I may be delving into the real classics like Machiavelli ‘s “The Prince” and the stories in “The Mabinogion“. We can all learn from the master storytellers of the past.

So read on dudes!

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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/

The awesome co-hosts for the February 3 posting of the IWSG are Allison Gammons,Tamara Narayan, Eva E. Solar, Rachel Pattison, and Ann V. Friend! 

 

Bring on the Revolution

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As there is no progress on the Idaho front, I am reverting to another aspect of my weekly Pick’N’Mix Theme – Books.

So we start with my review of the last book that I’ve read, T E Taylor’s Revolution Day.

Who can a revolutionary trust?

As an autocratic and repressive ruler hanging onto power after 37 years, Carlos Almanzor seems to have little choice as he tries to survive. The scenario that Tim Taylor paints so vividly echoes the real-life situations of so many abusers of power, and the downward spirals of many dictators. And the scheming of Carlos’ colleagues proves very Machiavellian – very appropriate since I won a copy of “The Prince” on the launch day of Tim’s engrossing novel.

In a way, I could relate being part-Chilean and having known both refugees from Pinochet and supporters of the Sandinista Revolution. The Latin flavour worked as well as the political elements, and through it all I had to root for Carlos’ estranged and imprisoned wife Juanita, as she reflected on the revolution and what could have been. In her character there were clever echoes of other imprisoned leaders that represent hope. Perhaps for liberty there is light at the end of the darkness.

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Peering into the Unknown

Since reading “Revolution Day”, I’ve scanned the bookshelves in my office and in my Kindle. Too many books to read, and I can’t stop buying more. For everyone that I finish, I buy three more.

The dilemma was resolved when I had an idea for a short story and began looking into the Viking foothold in Vinland. Having read an interview with author Heather Day Gilbert when God’s Daughter (Vikings of the New World Saga Book 1) was published, I’ve chosen that as my next foray.

There are other books that I’m reading or rather have on the go, like “The Welsh Gypsies” by A.O.H. Jarman and “Four Years on the Great Lakes, 1813-1816: The Journal of Lieutenant David Wingfield, Royal Navy” by Don Bamford, & Paul Carroll. But they are non-fiction research, so I dip in and out of them for my own writing. They will be on my desk for a few more months.

Have you read any of these books, even Machiavelli’s “The Prince”?