Isolation Junction

by Jennifer Gilmour

I knew going into this book that the topic was going to be a difficult one, and I was prepared. Emotional abuse is no joke, affecting thousands of people each day, and I have been lucky enough to have never had to go through the painful life Rose struggles through from page one.

Summary

100 reasons to leave, 1,000 reasons to stay

When Rose married the love of her life she was expecting the perfect family life she’d always dreamed of, but before her first child was born her husband, Darren, changed.

Almost overnight Rose’s life is turned upside down and the life she’d envisioned seemed like an impossible dream.

As Darren’s abuse deepens, Rose has 100 reasons to leave but 1,000s why she can’t. Will she ever escape the hellish life she and her children are trapped in?

Can Rose stop her life spiralling further out of control?
Can she find the life she desperately wants for her children?
Stuck at Isolation Junction, which way will Rose turn?

Musings

When Rose first meets Darren, he’s the perfect gentleman. Handsome and caring, he makes her feel like a princess. Her parents warn her about the age gap, but she doesn’t care: she’s in love with the perfect man and… he won’t let her go.

Very quickly, their relationship dissolves into one abuse. Darren is manipulative and scary, quickly isolating Rose from her family and friends. If she ever notices, he quickly turns the situation around until she’s the bad guy, or claims nothing happened at all – gaslighting her. Every staple of a toxic relationship can be found, and while it’s painfully evident to us readers, Rose falls deeper and deeper into this trap until she feels there’s no escape.

How does one escape when they haven’t spoken to their family and years? When the man who they married is holding their children basically as hostages? When you’re constantly looking over your shoulder for fear of him finding something new to punish you for?

Isolation Junction packs a powerful punch. As I mentioned above, it ticks off every sign of a toxic/abusive relationship. In one emotional moment in the novel, Rose goes through the list of what makes a relationship abusive. The list says “If you have answered YES to any one of these questions, then it is abusive” – and she realizes she has said yes to every one of them. We feel for Rose, we want her to escape, for her children to be safe. We want her to break free.

It was harder to get involved with the character since the book is written in an odd style, partially between fiction and what feels like an autobiography. Emotions are stright on the page and a little jumbled. We feel on the outside looking in, like there’s a window between us and Rose. Because of this, some emotional or painful moments don’t land as hard as they should. When Rose tries to reclaim her children, now that is a moment where I felt involved; when Darren’s family backs him up, now there, I felt involved. But for the rest of the novel, I was an outsider.

Another thing that was a little odd was how some moments were repeated by the author but told differently. For example, her home business is introduced twice, and now I’m not quite sure what she does. Or when she describes what finally broke the relationship between her and Darren, but we read that scene and it wasn’t exactly that? Some details I don’t mention here because they could be Darren’s gaslighting contorting Rose’s memories, but these re-descriptions pulled me further out of the story.

Even so, this book does an amazing job of raising awareness. For many people who don’t see the red flags at first, this book could open their eyes. For friends, this is a good way to spot the warning signs of a loved one being in an abusive relationship. It’s also a reminder of how difficult it still is for people to escape these relationships (if Tim wasn’t there, I don’t know how Rose would have done it, no matter how strong she is) and that we need to be there for our friends in their times of need.

Isolation Junction is an honest and raw look at the torment of domestic abuse, and a reminder for everyone that their voice matters.

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Sawkill Girls

by Claire Legrand

I picked up this book after seeing it all over bookstagram, not knowing exactly what to expect. The blurb made me think that it would be a story of cookie-cutter girls and ancient magic, but then I got sucked into the book and realized all my assumptions were dead wrong. 

Summary

Beware of the woods and the dark, dank deep.

He’ll follow you home, and he won’t let you sleep.

Who are the Sawkill Girls?

Marion: the new girl. Awkward and plain, steady and dependable. Weighed down by tragedy and hungry for love she’s sure she’ll never find.

Zoey: the pariah. Luckless and lonely, hurting but hiding it. Aching with grief and dreaming of vanished girls. Maybe she’s broken—or maybe everyone else is.

Val: the queen bee. Gorgeous and privileged, ruthless and regal. Words like silk and eyes like knives, a heart made of secrets and a mouth full of lies.

Their stories come together on the island of Sawkill Rock, where gleaming horses graze in rolling pastures and cold waves crash against black cliffs. Where kids whisper the legend of an insidious monster at parties and around campfires.

Where girls have been disappearing for decades, stolen away by a ravenous evil no one has dared to fight… until now.

Musings

Each of the girls is incredibly complex: Marion, morning the loss of her father, trying to be a rock for her sister and mother; Zoey, investigating the disappearance of her best friend and dealing with a shaky relationship with her romantic ex but still best friend; and Val, the ever beautiful, popular girl, who we see immediately as being way more than what Zoey thinks of her. 

I was a little let down when the author almost instantly revealed what was taking the girls on Sawkill rock, and thought “wow, there goes that mystery,” but I quickly realized that wasn’t the point of the story. No, figuring out what has been taking the girls isn’t the core of the book: it’s how the Sawkill Girls fight back. And that’s where the true strength of this novel comes from, the women. How Marion, Zoey, and Val, bring friendship, sisterhood, womanhood to the fight. 

I loved how every time I expected the book to go one way, it instead turned the narrative on its head. This book made me angry, in the best way possible. I made me grit my teeth and shout out in anger. When they introduced the ‘secret society’ I thought the author was stepping into trope territory, but no, she was calling them out. Every trope is brought to the light and beaten repeatedly until it promises never to show its ugly head again. Finishing this book – because I had to read it in one go, it was impossible to put down – I felt the same way as I did stepping out of Wonder Woman. I need more books like these, books that make me feel angry, bolstered and empowered. 

The gentler side of the book was also worthy of applause. An unexpected romantic relationship between two of the girls was perfect, hitting every note of what a YA needs. It was sweet, romantic, even sexy, and entirely woven into the plot of the story (so many books just tack f/f relationships on for the extra diversity sticker, without any actual care. This book doesn’t do that.) On top of that, this has to be the BEST representation of Asexuality I have ever read, anywhere. So perfect. 

While I went into this book with mild expectations, it has quickly become one of my favorite reads this year. Bold, unputdownable, and making me crave a re-read right away. Now let’s tear down the monsters of this world. 

November, in Comics

I haven’t done a monthly wrap up for a while. It’s been a hectic few months, what with the masters ramping up and the stress level through the roof. But this past month I’ve turned to one of my favorite novel forms for entertainment: graphic novels, and comics. 

It’s been so absolutely fantastic to read these beauties. Every one of them brought a smile to my face, and I thought, hey – why not tell people about them? Change things up a little bit from my usual type of post?

Without further ado, I give you five great graphic novels/comics that will warm you up as we go into December.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Vol. 1: The Crucible

On the eve of her sixteenth birthday, the young sorceress Sabrina Spellman finds herself at a crossroads, having to choose between an unearthly destiny and her mortal boyfriend, Harvey. But a foe from her family’s past has arrived in Greendale, Madame Satan, and she has her own deadly agenda. 

I honestly can’t say if I like the book or the show better!

While I don’t feel like we really get into Sabrina’s head in the comics, I loved the dark world the book portrays. Showing us something terrible and hinting at something much worse. It’s a great gritty horror comic which has me dying for more.

I wasn’t quite sure how much I liked the art style. At times, it felt rushed, a little hard to determine. The limited palette was an interesting touch, though, and makes this book really stand out. 

On A Sunbeam

Throughout the deepest reaches of space, a crew rebuilds beautiful and broken-down structures, painstakingly putting the past together. As Mia, the newest member, gets to know her team, the story flashes back to her pivotal year in boarding school, where she fell in love with a mysterious new student. When Mia grows close to her new friends, she reveals her true purpose for joining their ship—to track down her long-lost love.

This was an adorable graphic where all the characters are queer girls/women + one nonbinary person. A far flung future world full of girls, there were no male characters. I ended up impulse buying it because of the stunning cover, and the artwork inside is magical. 

It’s an amazing story about love and growth, exploring the universe in a quiet, beautiful way. Dream-like. I don’t have the words to describe how I feel after this book. It took me on an adventure, a journey, and I found pieces of myself along the way. It was quiet and beautiful and managed to coax some tears from me, too. Stunning!

Plume: The Omnibus

For Vesper Grey, there is the Before and the After. The Before is devastatingly boring; teacups and girdles, and an overbearing Aunt who makes life hell. The After is Corrick and the uncovered truth about a magical necklace. It is the Wild West, and it is an adventure that could very well change everything.

I bought the omnibus on the recommendation of a good friend, not knowing what to expect except his promise I was going to love it. He didn’t let me down: this comic is fun, thrilling, and impossible to put down. I loved every second of it. 

First of all, I have to say I love the artwork. The color palette is beautiful and the gold of Corrick’s eyes really sparkles on the page. It’s such a nice change from these rusty, cowboy comics. 

The story is just superb. Think Indiana Jones meets the Wild West. With MAGIC! I love Vesper’s character, she’s immediately relatable, spunky, and fun. The need for revenge flows through her and drives so many characters in this book, a theme that is explored from every which way. While I would love to see a live action movie, I think the comic is so spot on it can’t get any better than this. 

I don’t even know how to properly review it. I just want to shove it at people and say ‘READ’. Which I guess is how I got here in the first place!

Cthulhu is Hard to Spell: A Lovecraft Anthology

A comic anthology with 35 awesome stories about Lovecraftian gods and monsters, from fans to fans.

If you love Lovecraft, this is our love letter to Lovecraft fans of all kinds, from those that obsess about Cthulhu, to the ones that never want to leave Arkham, to the ones that keep a copy of the Necronomicon under their pillow, and everyone in between. Whether you are a casual fan or a rabid one, we’ve got you covered.

I absolutely love this anthology, chuck full of amazing stories spanning the whole range of genres and emotions! You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and all just for the small price of pledging your life to the Dark Lord. Is he not merciful? 

Having written one of these stories, it’s difficult to remain unbiased. I know how much love and work went into each and every story, discovered incredible creators through this collaboration, even made friends. This anthology is a labor of love from everyone involved, and I can feel it in every story I read, which is why I love each and every one.

Shades of Magic #2: The Steel Prince

The Prince of Red London reaches the Blood Coast – and meets its infamous Pirate Queen.

A short review for a short comic, since this story is ongoing and not yet put into volumes. If you’re not following the Shades of Magic comic, hurry up and do, because it’s amazing. It’s got everything we love about V.E. Shwab’s bestselling series, and more, since the artwork is beautiful. In this issue, the story intensified as Maxim learns about the pirate queen and her dangerous bone magic. Cannot wait for the next installment!

The Lost Plot

The Invisible Library, Book 4
By Genevieve Cogman

A few months ago, I finished what I had assumed to be the last book in the Invisible Library… Until they announced not one, but two new books to follow! Naturally, I was over the moon. I could not wait for The Lost Plot to be released, and let me tell you, it did not let me down!

Summary34688608

After being commissioned to find a rare book, Librarian Irene and her assistant, Kai, head to Prohibition-era New York and are thrust into the middle of a political fight with dragons, mobsters, and Fae. 

In a 1920s-esque New York, Prohibition is in force; fedoras, flapper dresses, and Tommy guns are in fashion: and intrigue is afoot. Intrepid Librarians Irene and Kai find themselves caught in the middle of a dragon political contest. It seems a young Librarian has become tangled in this conflict, and if they can’t extricate him, there could be serious repercussions for the mysterious Library. And, as the balance of power across mighty factions hangs in the balance, this could even trigger war. 

Irene and Kai are locked in a race against time (and dragons) to procure a rare book. They’ll face gangsters, blackmail, and the Library’s own Internal Affairs department. And if it doesn’t end well, it could have dire consequences on Irene’s job. And, incidentally, on her life…

Musings

Right off the bat, Irene is thrust once again into a no-win situation. Forced to play sides between two competing dragons, she needs to find a compromised Librarian before it’s too late. And that means searching the entirety of a world that seems a lot like the 1920s here on earth: prohibition, gangsters, and flappers… oh, and not to mention dragons!

Unlike the first three books, here the entire focus is on a draconic feud, in an ordered world. That means less fae, more dragons, and of course, all that drama that they bring along! For a race that believes themselves to be so morally superior, they’re such drama queens. We have a pack of wolves and the guns for hire, and Irene caught in the middle. I quite liked this change, as we got to learn a lot more about Kai and his people.

The series improves with every new book, each one better than the last. The Lost Plot has to be my favorite so far of the series! Returning to the world and to Irene was like coming home after a long day: I’m hooked, and I love it. Not to mention I’m getting a bit of a crush on Irene – I mean, what’s not to love about a badass librarian spy who loves books and kicks ass?

If you like the series so far, then, of course, The Lost Plot is a must read. Only this time, it has more action, faster pace, more dragons, and even more librarians! Not to mention the ending will give you all the feels. This is not one to miss!

Expected publication: January 9th 2018 by Ace Books
Thank you, Ace Books for providing me with the ARC copy!

IMG_1815

Starswept

by Mary Fan

Drop everything, and pick up this book. If you love space, aliens, music, and incredible twists that will leave your jaw on the floor, then Starswept is set to become your new favorite novel. Not to mention, the most elaborate and gorgeous interior design you’ve ever seen, making this book a literal work of art. If this isn’t enough to convince you, then stick around, because I have a lot to say!

Summary34377743

In 2157, the Adryil—an advanced race of telepathic humanoids—contacted Earth. A century later, 15-year-old violist Iris Lei considers herself lucky to attend Papilio, a prestigious performing arts school powered by their technology. Born penniless, Iris’s one shot at a better life is to attract an Adryil patron. But only the best get hired, and competition is fierce.

A sudden encounter with an Adryil boy upends her world. Iris longs to learn about him and his faraway realm, but after the authorities arrest him for trespassing, the only evidence she has of his existence is the mysterious alien device he slipped to her.

When she starts hearing his voice in her head, she wonders if her world of backstabbing artists and pressure for perfection is driving her insane. Then, she discovers that her visions of him are real—by way of telepathy—and soon finds herself lost in the kind of impossible love she depicts in her music.

But even as their bond deepens, Iris realizes that he’s hiding something from her—and it’s dangerous. Her quest for answers leads her past her sheltered world to a strange planet lightyears away, where she uncovers secrets about Earth’s alien allies that shatter everything she knows.

Musings

Iris loves playing viola more than anything else in the world. She’s passionate about her music, and desperate to be successful, to find an alien patron so that she can search for her parents. She lives in a remarkable institute for the arts, Papillio, that has been molding her since she was a baby to be a true prodigy. But in the world she inhabits, if she doesn’t have her music, and if she never gets a patron, she is nothing. Music literally is her life.

What astounded me about this novel (among many other things) is how complex the characters and the world building really is. Everything makes complete sense. The aliens, the Adryil, communicate through telepathy: which means they prize conformity, and never developed the arts, since no words ever go unspoken, and don’t need music or performance to share. When they discover earth, they’re blown away by our art, and suddenly having artistic talent makes you valuable in their world. It’s all connected – and even more so when the author pulls the rug out from under your feet about halfway through.

The first half of the novel was a little slow, but so beautifully written I couldn’t put it down. Pretty much at the halfway mark, the novel starts to pick up the pace, and fast. A massive revelation springs up and the reader is left baffled. Once again, it all makes sense. It’s like you (as the reader) knew what was going on, but flipped the way it is, you suddenly see how twisted it really is. Of course, I won’t spoil the reveal. But it’s so worth reading to get there.

I also loved the relationship between Damiul and Iris. I usually find YA couples to be too contrived, but this is not the case here. There’s real friendship, and real love between the two. Not to mention some altogether amazing lines.

Imagine all the stars in the galaxy in one pair of eyes, all the sureness of home in one pair of arms, all the heroics of a thousand epic tales in one noble heart.
This is my love. 

Yeah. Did I mention how gorgeous this book is? It’s a masterpiece.

There’s so much I want to tell you about how good this book is… the true love of music the author conveys through her novel. The diversity of the cast of characters. The complexity of even the most trivial things. I went into this book with no expectations, and came out feeling truly shaken and amazed.

If you love YA, then this book is definitely for you. And even if you don’t, it might be the book that brings you into the genre. It’s sublime.

Massive thank you to the author for sending me a signed copy. I’m going to treasure it forever.

Expected publication: August 29th 2017 by Snowy Wings Publishing

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance

by Ruth Emmie Lang
Reviwed by SA

Upon finishing this book, I thought: Wow, this was beautiful! And it’s one I’m going to recommending to many friends, despite the fact that it didn’t entirely click for me. Even so, it was evidently a fantastic novel full of magic.

Summary33574161

Orphaned, raised by wolves, and the proud owner of a horned pig named Merlin, Weylyn Grey knew he wasn’t like other people. But when he single-handedly stopped that tornado on a stormy Christmas day in Oklahoma, he realized just how different he actually was.

That tornado was the first of many strange events that seem to follow Weylyn from town to town, although he doesn’t like to take credit. As amazing as these powers may appear, they tend to manifest themselves at inopportune times and places. From freak storms to trees that appear to grow over night, Weylyn’s unique abilities are a curiosity at best and at worst, a danger to himself and the woman he loves. But Mary doesn’t care. Since Weylyn saved her from an angry wolf on her eleventh birthday, she’s known that a relationship with him isn’t without its risks, but as anyone who’s met Weylyn will tell you, once he wanders into your life, you’ll wish he’d never leave.

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance tells the story of Weylyn Grey’s life from the perspectives of the people who knew him, loved him, and even a few who thought he was just plain weird. Although he doesn’t stay in any of their lives for long, he leaves each of them with a story to tell. Stories about a boy who lives with wolves, great storms that evaporate into thin air, fireflies that make phosphorescent honey, and a house filled with spider webs and the strange man who inhabits it.

There is one story, however, that Weylyn wishes he could change: his own. But first he has to muster enough courage to knock on Mary’s front door.

Musings

It’s taken me a few days to finish writing this review, because I had to let my thoughts simmer about it. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance, but when I put it down, I didn’t feel an immediate urge to pick it up again. Perhaps the slow magic was what drew me back to it, the simmering style of the author that fills your heart with warmth.

Overall, the plot is simple: it’s the life of a man names Weylan Grey, who apparently can speak to animals, control the weather, make plants grow… fantastic gifts, which all make for a fantastic character. We see his life through the eyes of different people he meets along the way (always two at a specific point in time, with hints clueing you in to what happened while he was away). It’s also a love story, between him and a brilliant woman named Mary.

Despite the fact that there are dangerous hurricanes, wolves, and snowstorms, the novel still has this odd sense of tranquility. It’s calm, slow paced. The story moves along in a gentle, steady way, like a quiet walk through a forest. You can’t help but love Weylan, his comical confusion with the rest of mankind (the running gag of the business cards had me in stitches) and his ease with animals.

I think it’s the love story that messed with me the most. Now I won’t say anything here because of spoilers, but the ending, while it looked cute and romantic, at second glance rubbed me the wrong way. Maybe I’m too picky. I should just be happy for them.

\It’s one of those are cases where I preferred how the author told the story over the story itself. Beautiful book, nonetheless. For fans of magical realism, love, and wolves.

Paper and Fire

(The Great Library, #2)
by Rachel Caine

Last year, I won a copy of Ink and Bone, and was instantly hooked. I can’t believe how long it’s taken me to read its sequel! It’s a littler hard to know what to think about this book, as it all went by so quickly.Review It’s a littler hard to know what to think about this book, as it all went by so quickly.

Summary25890355

With an iron fist, the Great Library controls the knowledge of the world, ruthlessly stamping out all rebellion and, in the name of the greater good, forbidding the personal ownership of books.

Jess Brightwell has survived his introduction to the sinister, seductive world of the Library, but serving in its army is nothing like he envisioned. His life and the lives of those he cares for have been altered forever. His best friend is lost, and Morgan, the girl he loves, is locked away in the Iron Tower, doomed to a life apart from everything she knows.

After embarking on a mission to save one of their own, Jess and his band of allies make one wrong move and suddenly find themselves hunted by the Library’s deadly automata and forced to flee Alexandria, all the way to London.

But Jess’s home isn’t safe anymore. The Welsh army is coming, London is burning, and soon, Jess must choose between his friends, his family, and the Library, which is willing to sacrifice anything and anyone in the search for ultimate control…

Musings

Paper and Fire is the exciting continuation of the Great Library series, where the library of Alexandria never burned down, and now information and books or prized more heavily than human lives. Set six months after the tumultuous end to Ink and Bone, Jess finally has the proof he needs that Thomas is alive. But saving him would mean breaking away from the library entirely, and making him and any friend who follows him a rebel. Is it worth the risk?

This book is 50% international spy/heist, and 50% a bit of a mess. That’s why I only rated it 3 stars: the first half was perfectly paced and executed, exciting and addicting. The second half was in shambles. It was like the author didn’t know what to do with the crew once they had achieved their goal.

The entire sequence in the Iron tower was insane. The messed up, Handmaid’s Tale-esk treatement of Morgan and the other obscurists made me shudder and cringe. But there’s something abour Morgan that rubs me the wrong way. Her unexplained escape(s) from the tower felt contrived and too coincidental, just like her relationship with Jess. There’s no chemistry there, and the romance feels very forced.

But my favorite characters shine. Thomas. Khaliah. Wolfe and Santi. I’m so excited to have them back! While Jess makes a bit of a (I hate to say this) bland main character, the entire cast around him is amazing.There’s my family, I love them, I want to surround myself with these nerdy book lovers and right the Archivist with them.

I am, however, excited for book 3! I can’t wait to know what happens next. The ending of Paper and Fire was perfect!

Starstruck – EXCERPT!

By S.E. Anderson

Heya Bookworms! Today’s post is a little different – because I’m going to tell you a little bit about my new release, my debut novel, Starstruck. It’s a funny, quirky space story about aliens, anxiety and adulthood. And so far, people are really liking it!

“S.E. Anderson’s debut is a hilarious galactic romp with loving nods to Hitch Hiker’s Guide to Galaxy but with a voice all its own. It’s quirky, fun, and utterly enjoyable.” ~Dragon Award-nominated author, R.R. Virdi of The Grave Report and The Books of Winter.

“It’s witty, it’s fast paced, and it’s delightfully tongue in cheek. […] If you like The Doctor, Hitchiker’s Guide or Space Shennanigans, you’ll like this book. Can’t wait to read more.” ~ L. Burke

“My only question is WHEN CAN I READ THE NEXT BOOK?!” ~ C. McGough

“I think anyone who is a fan of things like Doctor Who, Douglas Adams’ trilogy, or even Firefly would feel right at home with this one.” ~ H.

“I’ll be definitely picking up the second book in this series. S.E. Anderson is a skilled writer, and Starstruck’s pages burst with personality, action, and humour. A must-read for science fiction fans.” ~ M. Dyer

But as the author, it would be very odd of me to review it. Though I have said a little bit about it before, right here! So instead, I’m just going to share with you the prologue. Enjoy!


PROLOGUE
It All Begins With a Lot of Sand

The commander raised his binoculars and surveyed the desert. The bleak landscape spread out for an eternity before him, flat as far as he could see, broken only by the crumbling buildings of the city. “Where are you?”

“Um, sir. W-what are your orders?”

The commander drew in a sharp breath. His second might only be a kid—on his first posting, no less—and maybe he hadn’t seen the kind of action that kept the commander awake at night, but he had to keep his face straight. If he thought that skirmish with the fugitives was an actual attack, he was kidding himself. Besides, the men counted on them for strength and guidance, not fear and weakness.

His team waited in silence on the roof beside him. Most were looking anywhere but at the commander, avoiding eye, or any other kind of contact. He did not blame them.

“I want you to find those fugitives.” The commander’s order flew off his tongue like sparks from a fire. “They must be within the city limits or someone would have spotted them.”

“But, sir, we searched the burg, and there was no sign of them.”

“Then look harder,” the commander hissed, raising the binoculars again. He scowled at the empty wasteland. It was the same as always, as it had been for months … well, until today.

“Maybe they’ve, um, braved the desert?”

The commander resisted the temptation to slap him. How his superiors thought the boy ready for the post was beyond him. Maybe it was meant as a slight, giving him children to command, like he was a babysitter rather than a decorated war hero. “Can you see them out there?”

His number two swallowed. “Um, no, sir.”

“Then they’re not there, are they?” The commander shifted his gaze back to the horizon, daring the universe to put the fugitives in his field of vision. “They’re in the town. They can’t be anywhere else, which makes me wonder what you are still doing here.” He turned and glared at his number two. “Find them.”

“Sir!”

A call from the street below made him lower his binoculars. He marched to the edge of the roof and looked down at the cracked pavement, ignoring his second-in-command as the boy scampered off to follow his orders. A soldier looked up at him, clutching a rifle against his chest like a shield.

“What?”

“They’ve been sighted, sir.” His voice cracked. “They’re making a run for it on foot, but they’re not moving very fast. They’ve taken to the desert, by the east bridge.”

The commander spun on his heels, turning from his perch to make his way to the staircase. He gave a curt nod to each of the men standing by, gesturing for them to follow. He would need every soldier assigned to this middle-of-nowhere dump he had been defending for half a century. The atmosphere had been quite cheerful until today, the day when everyone under his command learned what it meant to be tested.

But they’d been seen, finally, and he could take as long as he wanted to get to the East End. The desert was eternal, without shelter or cover until one reached the mountains, and that took at least three days by ‘craft. If they were on foot, all his men needed to do was to keep them in sight, and he would have them.

He ran through the list of rewards he would receive for capturing the elusive pair. Money? Land? A promotion would be in order; he deserved that much, at least. Somewhere nice, somewhere where the sun shone, instead of burning like fire on his constantly covered-up skin. There was a little place he liked not too far away, with sandy beaches and a deep ocean, a post that required plainclothes rather than camouflage.

He marched through the ghost town, realizing how high the sand had risen since his first day all those years ago. It had been a vibrant place back then, with a market on this very street and flags flying from the windows. Now, all that remained were crumbling memories; the rising sands were devouring what lingered. Soon, all they would leave would be a gigantic dune—the only dune for thousands of miles.

“You have them?” he asked as he reached the squadron at the east bridge. The soldiers huddled in a mass, each trying to mask their fear. The broken bridge had all but crumbled away, leaving a cement perch over an ocean of sand, a perfect vantage point from which to see … well, more sand. Only today, just for a change, there was something else out there.

Each of his soldiers bore a mark from the so-called attack: a red-raw neck; a lump or two growing on their head; a small mark in the shape of a cigarette burn, accompanied by the scent of scorched clothing and skin. Their wounds were minor, however, which meant he would capture the two most wanted criminals in the universe without losing a single man. He did wonder how they had managed to get through the fight with such light injuries, though. According to legend, the fugitives could kill hundreds in a single minute—some even said the blink of an eye—though he was sure the stories were exaggerated.

The felons dashed across the arid desert. They wore desert clothes, loose layers of cotton wrapped around their bodies to help them blend in with the sand. The man’s turban was coming undone, fluttering in the wind he created by his sheer speed. The woman danced lightly across the sand beside him; unhindered by the wrap, she was so graceful, she almost floated in the air. It was enough to make the commander freeze as he watched her shrinking from view.

“I have them in my sights, sir,” the sniper announced. His finger hovered above the trigger. The commander found himself staring at it, that lonely digit, reveling in how something so simple could bring such vile things to an end. The rest of his companions stood further back, eyes wide with terror, faces contorted with fear, and legs paralyzed by both. This man had no welts on his arms, no marks or bruising on his neck. No wonder he could still think clearly. The commander ran a hand over the burn on his right wrist, sliding his sleeve to cover it.

“I see them.” He grinned at the sniper, his binoculars trained on the two figures. “Shoot to incapacitate. Then have a retrieval squad pick them up.”

The sniper fired a single shot. A loud, piercing sound broke the silence. Almost instantly, the man fell to the ground, a red spot spreading from the middle of his back, soaking through his cotton garb. The commander sneered. Just minutes away from glory.

His sneer faded when the man stood up; he didn’t seem to notice the bullet, even though the splotch of blood spread. The man fled across the desert unhindered by the wound, his feet pounding rhythmically. “Shoot him again,” the commander ordered, mortified. He clutched his burn as if he could reflect the pain back tenfold upon those who bestowed it.

The shot rang out, seemingly louder this time, but the man kept running, despite fresh blood saturating his shirt. “Again.” Finally, losing his temper he commanded, “Kill him!”

This time, the bullet hit the small of the man’s back, but he didn’t fall. Instead, his hand reached across his back, as if to swat a fly, smearing the blood without slowing his stride.

“This is clearly the wrong approach,” the commander said, forcing himself to keep his composure, though fury flooded his words. “Arms at the ready.”

“What, all of us?” a soldier asked.

“Yes, all of you,” he snapped, raising a hand in the air. “Ready … aim …”

The soldiers had barely raised their guns when the targets just … disappeared. They had not fallen, nor had they escaped upward. The commander scrutinized the landscape, but there was no trace of them; in their place, an unfurled turban floated to the ground in the breeze.

The commander’s fury burst the dam of self-control, and he howled. He ripped off his helmet and slammed it on the ground. It hit the pavement and rebounded, ramming into his shin. He felt none of it; his anger eclipsed his pain, the fury burning through his veins like acid, stronger and hotter than he had ever felt before.

Everything he had heard about them, everything he wished he hadn’t known but had learned to fear about them … it was all true, and there was no better truth than the one he had seen with his own eyes. One second they were there, just out of reach, the next, gone. Just … gone. Bullets didn’t even slow them down. No wonder they had a knack for evading the law.

No wonder they needed to be taken down.

For the first time in his life, the commander dropped his head into his hands, a sob ringing across the empty wasteland, heard only by the cowards behind him. He picked up his helmet, and, seeing the burn marks upon it, shouted words into the desert that his men could not understand. Then, without thought, he tossed it into the desert, watching the dented metal tumble in the air, before falling into the sand and lodging itself there to be covered up by time. With that, the commander fell to his knees, rubbing his webbed fingers over his irritated, sunburned scalp.

They had escaped once again. And with them, his dreams.

Goodbye, money.

Goodbye, land.

Goodbye, promotion and plainclothes.

And he had so wanted that quiet posting on Earth.


Starstruck All Angles

There you have it! Do you want to read more? The first FIVE chapters are available right now, for FREE. Check it out right here!

And if you’d like to buy the book, well that’s easy too! You can find it right here, on amazon.

The Song Rising

The Bone Season, Book 3
Written by Samantha Shannon

I have to say, I’m a massive fan of the Bone Season series. I’ve had this book preordered since last August and just waiting ages and ages for it to release and ship. Downsides of living in France is just how much waiting there is for good books. And with the fantastic twist ending of The Mime Order, well, the wait was unbearable! Spoilers ahead for the first two books if you haven’t already read them.

Summary31451267

Following a bloody battle against foes on every side, Paige Mahoney has risen to the dangerous position of Underqueen, ruling over London’s criminal population.

But, having turned her back on Jaxon Hall and with vengeful enemies still at large, the task of stabilising the fractured underworld has never seemed so challenging.

Little does Paige know that her reign may be cut short by the introduction of Senshield, a deadly technology that spells doom for the clairvoyant community and the world as they know it…

One of the most amazing things about this series is how every book is a different genre. The Bone Season was paranormal fantasy; The Mime Order was murder Mystery; and now, the Song Rising is definite dystopia. Paige is now the Underqueen, and has to lead her people, the voyants of London, as they stand up against the Scion Empire. And it’s not an easy task: there’s betrayal, deceit, new enemies and a whole lot of unhappy voyants.

We finally get to explore more of the world that Shannon has created. Paige’s mission takes her north of London, to Scion Manchester and Scion Edinburgh. We get to see just how much Scion has destroyed the lives of non-voyants as well, and learn more about the dark pasts that haunt our favorite characters. We learn about Scion Sweden, and Nick’s story, which is painful in every way.

Another strength of Shannon is how every book has its own villain, and gives Paige a very distinct goal to strive for. In The Song Rising, we finally get to meet the woman behind the fall of Ireland, Paige’s true home. Vance is a cruel commander who will stop at nothing to destroy everything Paige is trying to create. I would have liked to see more from her, but she was a great enemy to pursue.

The character growth is exceptional, especially for Paige and her relationship with Warden (which doesn’t go where you’d expect). However, I think the author might have spread herself thin by having so many supporting characters also evolving. There were so many to juggle, and I think they might have lost some of their depth on the cutting board.

I have to say the first half of the book was a little slow. it was hard to get into the story, as it was mostly Paige having to deal with annoying people, and hand out pep talks and long speeches to assert her dominance. A bit of a pain. but the last half was gripping to the extreme, and the last fifty pages were insane. So intense! Now I just can’t wait for the next book.

What I’m excited for: Scion France, and TBS à la international spy thriller. Heck. Yes. Sign me up now!

The Space Between the Stars

by Anne Corlett

This novel was nothing what I expected, and yet it is now stuck in my mind like an idea that just won’t go away. It’s one of those books that’s so breathtaking, so gorgeous, it becomes unforgettable. Fair warning, scifi fans: this is not hard scifi, this is not a space opera: it is something different, something more.

Summary30981910

All Jamie Allenby ever wanted was space. Even though she wasn’t forced to emigrate from Earth, she willingly left the overpopulated, claustrophobic planet. And when a long relationship devolved into silence and suffocating sadness, she found work on a frontier world on the edges of civilization. Then the virus hit…

Now Jamie finds herself dreadfully alone, with all that’s left of the dead. Until a garbled message from Earth gives her hope that someone from her past might still be alive.

Soon Jamie finds other survivors, and their ragtag group will travel through the vast reaches of space, drawn to the promise of a new beginning on Earth. But their dream will pit them against those desperately clinging to the old ways. And Jamie’s own journey home will help her close the distance between who she has become and who she is meant to be…

Musings

The virus hits, and humanity as we know it is gone. Less than a dozen or so survivors per planet. The virus has consumed so entirely that the dead are nothing but dust in sunbeams. Jamie is one of the survivors, seemingly alone on a frontier planet, so she finds hope by clinging to one idea: she needs to find her ex-husband on Earth, as they promised they would do so long ago. She’s not alone: soon, she finds a religious man with a troubled past; a woman slowly losing her mind; a pilot with a cold exterior, and his engineer; a young prostitute, and a mentally challenged boy. Strays. Stragglers. Survivors. Together, they decide to head to Earth.

The surprising thing about this novel is just how… calm it is. Not so say that the plot isn’t gripping, it’s just that you can almost feel the voices snuffed out. The author juxtaposes small, personal loses (or quite large ones) with the wide scale loss of your entire species. Jamie’s loss of her siamese twin, then unborn child, then the crumbling of her relationship with Daniel are poignant pains that are still valid in front of the collapse of mankind.

It’s really a book about philosophies, and personal beliefs around hope and religion. Some turn towards a god in this apocalypse; others turn away. And some try to take god’s place.  Although some might try to take control, believing they know best, the truth is, all in all, there is no right answer to dealing with loss and grief. There’s no one sobbing in the street and mourning the dead – since this is a massive, collective loss, the hundred or so left might remain in shock forever.

I found that the plot was predictable, BUT, it was the philosophies that kept me hooked. Yes, the ‘twist’ at the end (or big reveal) is evident from about half way through, but I didn’t mind that since the rest of the book was so beautiful. It was very odd that out of the survivors (A little over a hundred out of the billions the human race used to be made up of) the protagonist knew or was related to two of them. The coincidences did feel heavy handed.

The novel really did manage to speak about today, about how our fear of ‘others’ can destroy us all. We hear bits and pieces about the forced emigration when Earth became over crowded; about the protest ships; about the echelons that make up our future society, where our fingers are branded with our class. I would have loved to know more about that, even if that world is now gone.

For fans of Station Eleven and Firefly, this seems to be the perfect combination of ‘ragtag space team’ and the burden of loss and survival. It’s an exploration of grief and hope, and, above all, belief. It’s an exploration of our humanity, what it means to be human when humankind is lost.

And it’s gorgeous.

Expected publication: June 1st 2017 by Pan Macmillan