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Melanie's Month in Review - August 2019


Melanie's Month in Review - August 2019


Apologies reader for my tardiness posting my August month in review. I had it all planned. I was going to have my post written so that it was ready to go up last weekend. Work however, interrupted my carefully laid plan and here we are partway into September and I haven't yet told you about all the great books I read in August.

I have to say that I ended the summer with a couple of excellent books. One has even made it onto my fave books of all time! Pssst....and it's a debut! So what did I read?


Melanie's Month in Review - August 2019
I will start with books I listened to. First up is Ben Aaranovitch's The October Man which is a novella in the Rivers of London series but not starring my favourite member of magic police Peter Grant. Instead, Aaronovitch stages the story in Germany with Tobias Winter investigating a recent grizzly murder by magic. Set in Trier, a former Roman city and famous for its wine, Tobias needs to find out why a man was found dead covered in a fungal rot. Not just any fungus but one used in the making of a special vintage of wine. Tobias is joined by a local cop,Vanessa Sommer, and together they need to find out who is killing these men and why. Little do they know that the city's bloody history forms the backdrop for the murders. Unlike a well-aged wine time is not on their side.

I thoroughly enjoyed The October Man and am really glad I chose to listen to the audio version rather than read it as my sister read the book a week before me and said that she struggled with all the German names. The narrator Sam Peter Jackson really brought Tobias Winter to life and it was much easier to listen to the story with a 'easy to listen to' German accent than trying to read the English translation of German words. I thought the plot was engaging and really drew you in from the very start. For a novella it seemed much longer and I think that was down to the well developed plot. If you like this series then definitely give The October Man a go.


My second audiobook was The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden. As this was the last book of the trilogy and because I loved it soo much I wrote a full review. Check it out here.


Melanie's Month in Review - August 2019
Another series I finished was Michael McClung's Amra Thetys series with The Thief Who Went to War. In this final instalment Amra and Holgren are determined to destroy the final blade of the Blades of the Eightfold Goddess. Amra was left with a not so little reminder after her last encounter with one of the blades and is now an avatar for a goddess. Determined to find a way to destroy the final knife Amra returns to Lucernis for a showdown to end all showdowns...and possibly her life!

I only discovered this series by participating as a judge in the SPFBO two years ago and book 1, The Thief that Pulled on Trouble's Braids, had been the winner the year before. It has been 4 years between the final and penultimate books in the series so fans who were there from the start had quite a long wait to see how McClung would finish the series. While I liked this instalment it wasn't the best of the series and I think I might have been a tiny bit disappointed if I had waited 4 years to find out whether Amra and Holgren would make it. Amra has one too many lucky escapes for my liking and it was action, action, action from very early on in the book until the end. There wasn't as much character development as there had been in previous books. However, it's still a good series.


Melanie's Month in Review - August 2019
The final book I have to tell you about is Half Way Home by Hugh Howey. Set in the future where ships are sent out to colonise new planets with 500 vat grown humans on board. On the way to their eventual new home they are educated and trained in a specialism as they sleep. Midway through their development cycle the AI controlling their ship decides to start the abort sequence and only 60 teenagers manage to escape. Alone, scared and without all the skills they need to survive they have to rely on each other and the AI that almost killed them to survive. It's not long before they realise it's not just the inhospitable planet that they have landed on that is the biggest threat to their survival.

I loved Howey's Wool series so, in my opinion, it was going to be hard to follow those books. I didn't realise that when I requested Half Way Home from the publisher on NetGalley that it was originally released in 2010. It's a good book but it's not a great book and I found it quite predictable in parts. It is, however, quite short so a quick read if you are looking for some half decent science fiction.


Well that is it for me for August. I do have one more August book to share with you but I am planning on writing a full review so keep your eyes peeled to find out what book has made it onto my top reads ever. Sorry for being a tease! Happy Reading!





The October Man
A Rivers of London Novella
Subterranean Press, May 31, 2019
Hardcover and eBook, 169 pages

Melanie's Month in Review - August 2019
With this long new novella, bestselling author Ben Aaronovitch has crafted yet another wickedly funny and surprisingly affecting chapter in his beloved Rivers of London series.

If you thought magic was confined to one country—think again.

Trier: famous for wine, Romans and being Germany’s oldest city.

When a man is found dead with his body impossibly covered in a fungal rot, the local authorities know they are out of their depth. But fortunately this is Germany, where there are procedures for everything.

Enter Tobias Winter, an investigator for the Abteilung KDA, the branch of the German Federal Criminal Police which handles the supernatural. His aim is to get in, deal with the problem, and get out with the minimum of fuss, personal danger and paperwork.

Together with frighteningly enthusiastic local cop, Vanessa Sommer, he quickly links the first victim to a group of ordinary middle aged men whose novel approach to their mid-life crisis may have reawakened a bloody conflict from a previous century.

As the rot spreads, literally, and the suspect list extends to people born before Frederick the Great, Tobias and Vanessa will need to find allies in some unexpected places.

And to solve the case they’ll have to unearth the secret magical history of a city that goes back two thousand years.

Presuming that history doesn’t kill them first.





Winter of the Witch
Winternight Trilogy 3
Del Rey, October 1, 2019
Trade Paperback, 400 pages
Hardcover, Audiobook, and eBook, January 8, 2019

Melanie's Month in Review - August 2019
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Following their adventures in The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower, Vasya and Morozko return in this stunning conclusion to the bestselling Winternight Trilogy, battling enemies mortal and magical to save both Russias, the seen and the unseen.

“A tale both intimate and epic, featuring a heroine whose harrowing and wondrous journey culminates in an emotionally resonant finale.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Vasilisa Petrovna is an unforgettable heroine determined to forge her own path. Her gifts and her courage have drawn the attention of Morozko, the winter-king, but it is too soon to know if this connection will prove a blessing or a curse.

Now Moscow has been struck by disaster. Its people are searching for answers—and for someone to blame. Vasya finds herself alone, beset on all sides. The Grand Prince is in a rage, choosing allies that will lead him on a path to war and ruin. A wicked demon returns, determined to spread chaos. Caught at the center of the conflict is Vasya, who finds the fate of two worlds resting on her shoulders. Her destiny uncertain, Vasya will uncover surprising truths about herself as she desperately tries to save Russia, Morozko, and the magical world she treasures. But she may not be able to save them all.





The Thief Who Went to War
Amra Thetys 5
eBook, August 10, 2019
Trade Paperback, July 30, 2019

Melanie's Month in Review - August 2019
After barely surviving the attentions of the Knife That Parts the Night, Amra and Holgren are determined to end the threat posed by the remaining sentient, powerful Blades of the Eightfold Goddess. They are willing to risk everything to win their secret war, but can they succeed when their adversaries are cunning, powerful beyond measure, and utterly ruthless? And even if they can, what will it cost them?






Half Way Home
Mariner Books, October 1, 2019
Hardcover, Trade Paperback and eBook, 240 pages

Melanie's Month in Review - August 2019
From the New York Times and USA Today best-selling author of Wool and the Molly Fyde saga comes a story of teenage colonists marooned on a distant planet

WE WOKE IN FIRE

Five hundred colonists have been sent across the stars to settle an alien planet. Vat-grown in a dream-like state, they are educated through simulations by an artificial intelligence and should awaken at thirty years old, fully-trained, and ready to tame the new world.

But fifteen years in, an explosion on their vessel kills most of the homesteaders and destroys the majority of their supplies. Worse yet, the sixty that awaken and escape the flames are only half-taught and possess the skills least useful for survival.

Naked and terrified, the teens stumble from their fiery baptism ill-prepared for the unfamiliar and harsh alien world around them. Though they attempt to work with the colony A.I. to build a home, tension and misery are rampant, escalating into battles for dominance.

Soon they find that their worst enemy isn’t the hostile environment, the A.I., or the blast that nearly killed them. Their greatest danger is each other.

Melanie's Week in Review - January 15, 2017


Melanie's Week in Review - January 15, 2017



Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow. After many green winters with last year being almost balmy, it finally snowed in England. Many of my colleagues were cheering as big fat flakes pelted down amongst even fatter freezing rain drops. They were incredulous that I wasn't excited about the thought of getting cold and wet. I had to listen to the accusations of 'but you're Canadian, you should be used to this'. It's a bit different trudging around in the snow in inappropriate footwear and an umbrella than it is to jump into a nice warm car and drive to your destination. Ho hum. Anyway, enough of my weather report what did I read?


Melanie's Week in Review - January 15, 2017
I was super lucky to receive The Thief Who Wasn't There from the publisher. This is the fourth in Michael McClung's Amra Thetys series. I read the first three in quick succession and was practically biting my nails for number 4 to be released. I wasn't left disappointed.

At the end of Book 3 - The Thief Who Knocked on Sorrow's Gate Amra has disappeared from the mad wizard's tower in her home town of Bellarius. She isn't gone and forgotten as her boyfriend and mage Holgren is left behind, desperate to find her. In this instalment the story is told mainly from Holgren's POV. He is determined to find Amra and we find out just how far he is willing to go and the extent of his power. Holgren doesn't have to battle just to find Amra, he has unwittingly positioned himself as one of the contenders to rule Bellarius. There are battles on every front between the other factions within Bellarius and the dark magic that has taken Amra. He is willing to do anything and everything to get her back....even to go to Hell in back. Will he succeed? I will let you find that our yourself.

I enjoyed The Thief Who Wasn't There and think that having the story told by Holgren 'mixed it up a bit'. I like how ruthless he is and what he is willing to do in order to get his girlfriend back. When he says that it's Amra who makes him a nice person you realise pretty quickly that he isn't wrong. I also thought it was clever how McClung explains/re-introduces the story of gods and goddess and Amra's role in fate. However, I didn't find this book quite as polished as the others. I felt the transition between the Holgren POVs and Amra's a bit abrupt. Likewise with the change of story from the tower in Bellarius back to Holgren landing back in Lucernis. I had to go back and re-read the start of each of these chapters just to make sure I hadn't missed anything like an announcement of Holgren intending to travel or the subsequent journey. Otherwise, it was a great story and I am really looking forward to finding out what happens next.


Melanie's Week in Review - January 15, 2017
I received a lovely Qwill care package towards the end of last year and in that was Thunderbird which is the fourth book in Chuck Wendig's Miriam Black series. I was really looking forward to continuing this series as Miriam is one of those characters who dares you to like her. In this instalment Miriam is on the road to find the one person who is rumoured to be able to remove her ability to see how people die. Miriam has been trailed through all of the books by 'The Trespasser', a malevolent being she can only see who goads her and torments her about her abilities. Taking the form of those she has loved and lost (and sometimes those who she hated and lost!) The Trespasser is determined she won't give up her psychic abilities. During her travels Miriam finds herself in the company of a group of people much like herself with individual talents. They aren't, however, intending to use their powers for good but have plans which put them in the league of other terrorist organisations. Miriam is torn between wanting to defeat them and finding the woman who can remove her curse. What's worse is when she discovers that they are one and the same. Who will prevail? It's Miriam against a whole community of psychically enhanced nut-jobs. Go Miriam Go!

I would love to be able to say I really enjoyed Thunderbird but this is a hard series to enjoy, in the traditional sense of the word. Miriam is rude, crude, a user and can be at times extremely self centered. She has also had a terrible life with people being abusive and cruel to her. She has had an zealously religious mother mentally abuse her, has been chased and captured by mad men and just discovered her saviour and love Louis is engaged to someone else. Miriam seems to be permanently enrolled in the university of hard knocks. She is however, trying to be a better person, to rid herself of her visions so that she can lead a normal life. What she fails to realise and weirdly what The Trespasser is trying to convince her of, is how she can use her visions to change fate. What I didn't find as obvious this time was the relationship between the title and what happens in the story. Previous titles of Blackbirds, Mockingbird and The Cormorant started to make sense as the story progressed but I didn't really see the connection, or mention of a thunderbird in this tale. Perhaps this is a Wendig subtlety that passed me by. This is a dark, dark tale and the ending is very stark. I hope Miriam gets a break in the next book and that Wendig wraps up this story. Great book, but in my cover snob way I really miss the previous covers. I could stare at them all day and always found something new hiding in the background.


That is it for me this week. Hoping you have a great week and get to enjoy a book-shaped something special.





The Thief Who Wasn't There
Amra Thetys 4
Ragnarok Publications, November 15, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 348 pages

Melanie's Week in Review - January 15, 2017
Bellarius, saved from utter destruction, is now plunged into vicious civil war. Amra has vanished, and while Holgren has a plan to find her and bring her back, his plan teeters between impossibility and insanity.

Before he can even implement it, Holgren will have to deal with three separate armies vying for control of Bellaria, all of which view him as either a threat, an inconvenience, or a potential tool.

Meanwhile, Holgren seeks to trap one of the monstrous rift-spawn — abominations born of the Telemarch's madness and power — and bend it to his will. Then, he intends to descend into the eleven hells to steal an ancient artifact of incredible power from the dire halls of the Black Library.

Oh, the things we do for love.

The Thief Who Wasn't There is the fourth volume in Michael McClung's Amra Thetys series.



Previously

Melanie's Week in Review - January 15, 2017Melanie's Week in Review - January 15, 2017Melanie's Week in Review - January 15, 2017




Thunderbird
Miriam Black 4
Saga Press, February 28, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 336 pages

Melanie's Week in Review - January 15, 2017
In the fourth installment of the Miriam Black series, Miriam heads to the southwest in search of another psychic who may be able to help her understand her curse, but instead finds a cult of domestic terrorists and the worst vision of death she’s had yet.

Miriam is becoming addicted to seeing her death visions, but she is also trying out something new: Hope. She is in search of another psychic who can help her with her curse, but instead finds a group of domestic terrorists in her deadliest vision to date.



Previously

Melanie's Week in Review - January 15, 2017Melanie's Week in Review - January 15, 2017Melanie's Week in Review - January 15, 2017

Melanie's Year in Review - January 1, 2017


Melanie's Year in Review - January 1, 2017

Happy New Year! I hope you all had fabulous holidays and are not too busy making New Year's resolutions. My Week in Review fell conveniently on New Year's Day so I thought rather than just reviewing what I had read in the last week (which wasn't likely to be much) I would write a retrospective of my favourite books of 2016. This is no mean feat as a) I have a terrible memory for book names b) nothing jumped out as being especially memorable and c) I have a terrible memory for book names! Due to my commitment to jog my memory I trawled through all my WIRs and found a few reviews and voila I found 10 books/series. So in order of 'favouriteness' here are my fave reads of 2016:


Melanie's Year in Review - January 1, 2017
1.  One Fell Sweep by Ilona Andrews

One of the main reasons for this being my favourite book of 2016 was that I have been reading it over the course of the whole year as it was released a a weekly serial. Looking back at my WIRs I started reading the first chapter early last year (maybe in January) and I mentioned in a number of posts that I was enjoying it. I had the opportunity to review the e-Arc (which I jumped at) and it was even better in it's entirety and after edits/additions. This has been my go-to book when I have been feeling blue and needed a pick me up. Check out my full review here.





Melanie's Year in Review - January 1, 2017
2.  Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

I predicted back in April that Sleeping Giants was going to be one of my favourite books of the year and I wasn't wrong. This book is so well written, so innovative and has you gripped all the way through. Written in the form of transcripts I spent most of the novel wondering who the mystery interviewer was. The ending is an 100 volt shocker. This is fantastic sci-fi so get reading it. Read my review here.





Melanie's Year in Review - January 1, 2017
UK Edition
3.  City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett

If Bennett has a book out and I have read it, then it's  a guarantee that it will be on my 'best of' list. City of Blades is no exception. City of Stairs (book 1) in the Divine Cities series was one of my favourites so it makes sense that book 2 would be as well. Bennett combines unsympathetic characters that you still feel sympathy for, with a brilliantly executed plot, in an evocatively rich environment. You could read this as a standalone but why miss book 1? Check out what I thought here.





Melanie's Year in Review - January 1, 2017
UK Edition
4.  Stiletto by Daniel O'Malley

Four years after O'Malley's fantabulous debut The Rook he was back with Stiletto. Back with the Checquy but starring different characters we, the reader, get a front row seat to the merger of two sworn enemy organisations - The Checquy and the Grafters.  Hold on as it is a roller coaster ride of political maneuvers, deadly attacks and cocktail parties. Find out more by checking out my review.





Melanie's Year in Review - January 1, 2017
5.  Dreaming Death by J. Kathleen Cheney

Dreaming Death was a bit of a surprise for me. I thought the plot sounded ok but I was blown away with the characterisation and mostly with the description of the environment. This book was practically a scratch and sniff it was soo descriptive, all without over egging it. The murder mystery played second fiddle to the relationship between the two main characters, who don't even meet in person until much later story. Check out my full review.





6.  Dreaming Cities series by Guy Haley

I couldn't pick just one. Both of the novellas of this series are excellent in their individual way. This is story telling at its very best with the tale of the Knight Quinn told by a third party. Story 1 - The Emperor's Railroad is told in the first person in the form of a young boy's diary whereas book 2 The Ghoul King is more of a confession (or results of coercion). There is a HUGE reveal in book 2 and I can hardly wait for the next instalment. Great books, great covers, get reading!

The Emperor's Railroad review is here
The Ghoul King review is here

Melanie's Year in Review - January 1, 2017Melanie's Year in Review - January 1, 2017




7.  Amra Thetys by Michael McClung

I read over a dozen books in the first round of the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off and I nearly lost faith in self published books until I came across McClung's series. I had become disillusioned with the quality of some of the prose so decided to check out the winner from SPFBO 1 which was The Thief That Pulled on Trouble's Braids. It wasn't long before I was buying books 2 and 3. Amra is a great female lead and the mystery keeps you engrossed from page 1 through to the end. My first review is here.

Melanie's Year in Review - January 1, 2017Melanie's Year in Review - January 1, 2017
Melanie's Year in Review - January 1, 2017Melanie's Year in Review - January 1, 2017




Melanie's Year in Review - January 1, 2017
8.  The Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire series by Rod Duncan

I came across the final book of this series - The Custodian of Marvels through NetGalley but it was the final in the series so I had to go back an read the previous two books. Duncan has written an engaging steam-punky/fantasy world in which the intrepid Elizabeth Barnabas tries to right a wrong committed long ago while trying to steer clear of the dreaded Patent Office. Read what I thought about the final instalment here.





Melanie's Year in Review - January 1, 2017
9.  Magic Binds by Ilona Andrews

It's been awhile since a Kate Daniel's book has hit my fave list. While I enjoy the series overall the last couple of books have been closer to OK than to WOWILOVEDIT. For me, Magic Binds had more to it than Kate getting trampled and left for dead which seemed to be a focal point of the last 2-3 books. There was a real sense that Andrews is ramping things up for the culmination of the over-arching plot which I am looking forward to. As I wrote in my review this book is non stop action which has a purpose other than to see how tough Kate is to kill. I won't be waiting around to buy book 10. Bring it Kate!





Melanie's Year in Review - January 1, 2017
10.  The Ghost Rebellion by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris

While Wellington Books holds a secret place in my heart and while this further adventure in the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences hits my top 10 I would be wrong to place it any higher than tenth place. I know, I know....how can I be so cruel to dear Books especially when I donated to the Kickstarter campaign that brought this instalment into fruition? I still don't think I have forgiven the authors for what I can only describe as a time travelling transgression in book 4. The Ghost Rebellion is much closer to this series' former glory and I enjoyed the time I spent with characters past and present. Check out what I thought in a bit more detail here.




Apologies to all those books I had to leave out. There were some great ones but I didn't want to stretch it past 10 favourites. Now that I look at my list and my short list (which ran to 13) I was a bit more spoiled for choice than I originally thought.

To everyone that has cast a glance at this post and especially those who follow my Week in Review I wish you the very best for 2017. Let's hope the sad departures from the arts and sciences in 2016 doesn't continue into the new year and that we can find a silver lining in this politically volatile landscape. Until my next WIR Happy Reading.





Melanie's Year in Review - January 1, 2017
One Fell Sweep
Innkeeper Chronicles 3
NYLA, December 20, 2016
eBook, 257 pages

DeMille may run the nicest Bed and Breakfast in Red Deer, Texas, but she caters to very particular kind of guest… the kind that no one on Earth is supposed to know about. Guests like a former intergalactic tyrant with an impressive bounty on her head, the Lord Marshal of a powerful vampire clan, and a displaced-and-superhot werewolf; so don’t stand too close, or you may be collateral damage.

But what passes for Dina’s normal life is about to be thrown into chaos. First, she must rescue her long-distant older sister, Maud, who’s been exiled with her family to a planet that functions as the most lawless penal colony since Botany Bay. Then she agrees to help a guest whose last chance at saving his civilization could bring death and disaster to all Dina holds dear. Now Gertrude Hunt is under siege by a clan of assassins. To keep her guests safe and to find her missing parents, Dina will risk everything, even if she has and may have to pay the ultimate price. Though Sean may have something to say about that.




Melanie's Year in Review - January 1, 2017
Sleeping Giants
The Themis Files 1
Del Rey, January 24, 2017
Trade Paperback, 336 pages
Hardcover and eBook, April 26, 2016

A page-turning debut in the tradition of Michael Crichton, World War Z, and The Martian, Sleeping Giants is a thriller fueled by an earthshaking mystery—and a fight to control a gargantuan power.

A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near her home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand.

Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved—its origins, architects, and purpose unknown. Its carbon dating defies belief; military reports are redacted; theories are floated, then rejected.

But some can never stop searching for answers.

Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top secret team to crack the hand’s code. And along with her colleagues, she is being interviewed by a nameless interrogator whose power and purview are as enigmatic as the provenance of the relic. What’s clear is that Rose and her compatriots are on the edge of unraveling history’s most perplexing discovery—and figuring out what it portends for humanity. But once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, will the result prove to be an instrument of lasting peace or a weapon of mass destruction?




Melanie's Year in Review - January 1, 2017
City of Blades
The Divine Cities 2
Broadway Books, January 26, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 496 pages
(US Edition)

A triumphant return to the world of City of Stairs.

A generation ago, the city of Voortyashtan was the stronghold of the god of war and death, the birthplace of fearsome supernatural sentinels who killed and subjugated millions.

Now, the city’s god is dead. The city itself lies in ruins. And to its new military occupiers, the once-powerful capital is a wasteland of sectarian violence and bloody uprisings.

So it makes perfect sense that General Turyin Mulaghesh— foul-mouthed hero of the battle of Bulikov, rumored war criminal, ally of an embattled Prime Minister—has been exiled there to count down the days until she can draw her pension and be forgotten.

At least, it makes the perfect cover story.

The truth is that the general has been pressed into service one last time, dispatched to investigate a discovery with the potential to change the world–or destroy it.

The trouble is that this old soldier isn’t sure she’s still got what it takes to be the hero.



Melanie's Year in Review - January 1, 2017
Stiletto
The Rook Files 2
Little Brown and Company, June 14, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 592 pages

In this spirited sequel to the acclaimed The Rook, Myfanwy Thomas returns to clinch an alliance between deadly rivals and avert epic -- and slimy -- supernatural war.

When secret organizations are forced to merge after years of enmity and bloodshed, only one person has the fearsome powers---and the bureaucratic finesse---to get the job done. Facing her greatest challenge yet, Rook Myfanwy Thomas must broker a deal between two bitter adversaries:

The Checquy---the centuries-old covert British organization that protects society from supernatural threats, and...

The Grafters---a centuries-old supernatural threat.

But as bizarre attacks sweep London, threatening to sabotage negotiations, old hatreds flare. Surrounded by spies, only the Rook and two women who absolutely hate each other, can seek out the culprits before they trigger a devastating otherworldly war.

Stiletto is a novel of preternatural diplomacy, paranoia, and snide remarks, from an author who "adroitly straddles the thin line between fantasy, thriller, and spoof " (Booklist).




Melanie's Year in Review - January 1, 2017
Dreaming Death
Palace of Dreams 1
Roc, February 2, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 432 pages

In the Novels of the Golden City, J. Kathleen Cheney created a “mesmerizing” (Publishers Weekly) realm where magic, history, and intrigue combine. Now, she presents a new world ruled by psychic talents and fatal magic…

Shironne Anjir’s status as a sensitive is both a gift and a curse. Her augmented senses allow her to discover and feel things others can’t, but her talents come with a price: a constant assault of emotions and sensations has left her blind. Determined to use her abilities as best she can, Shironne works tirelessly as an investigator for the Larossan army.

A member of the royal family’s guard, Mikael Lee also possesses an overwhelming power—he dreams of the deaths of others, sometimes in vivid, shocking detail, and sometimes in cryptic fragments and half-remembered images.

But then a killer brings a reign of terror to the city, snuffing out his victims with an arcane and deadly blood magic. Only Shironne can sense and interpret Mikael’s dim, dark dreams of the murders. And what they find together will lead them into a nightmare…




Melanie's Year in Review - January 1, 2017
The Emperor's Railroad
A Tale of the Dreaming Cities 1
Tor.com, April 19, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 144 pages

Global war devastated the environment, a zombie-like plague wiped out much of humanity, and civilization as we once understood it came to a standstill. But that was a thousand years ago, and the world is now a very different place.

Conflict between city states is constant, superstition is rife, and machine relics, mutant creatures and resurrected prehistoric beasts trouble the land. Watching over all are the silent Dreaming Cities. Homes of the angels, bastion outposts of heaven on Earth. Or so the church claims. Very few go in, and nobody ever comes out.

Until now…



Melanie's Year in Review - January 1, 2017
The Ghoul King
A Tale of the Dreaming Cities 2
Tor.com, July 12, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 160 pages

Quinn returns in THE GHOUL KING, another story of the Dreaming Cities by Guy Haley.

The Knight, Quinn, is down on his luck, and he travels to the very edge of the civilized world – whatever that means, any more – to restock his small but essential inventory.

After fighting a series of gladiatorial bouts against the dead, he finds himself in the employ of a woman on a quest to find the secret to repairing her semi-functional robot.

But the technological secret it guards may be one truth too many…




Melanie's Year in Review - January 1, 2017
The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble's Braids
Amra Thetys 1
Ragnarok Publications, September 1, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 298 pages

"They butchered Corbin right out in the street. That’s how it really started. He was a rogue and a thief, of course. But then, so am I. So when he got himself hacked up in front of his house off Silk Street, I decided somebody had to be made to pay. They thought that they could just sweep him away like rubbish. They were wrong."

Amra Thetys is a thief with morals: she won't steal from anybody poorer than she is; of course, anybody that poor generally doesn't have much worth stealing.

When a fellow thief and good friend is killed in a deal gone wrong, Amra turns her back on burglary and goes after something far more precious: revenge. Revenge, however, might be hard to come by. A nightmare assortment of enemies, including an immortal assassin and a mad sorcerer, believe Amra is in possession of The Blade That Whispers Hate—the legendary, powerful artifact her friend was murdered for—and they'll do anything to take it from her.

Trouble is, Amra hasn't got the least clue where the Blade might be. She needs to find the Blade, and soon, or she'll be joining her unfortunate friend in a cold grave rather than avenging his death, and time is running short for the small, scarred thief.

The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble's Braids is the first volume in Michael McClung's Amra Thetys series.




Melanie's Year in Review - January 1, 2017
The Custodian of Marvels
The Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire 3
Angry Robot Books, February 2, 2016
     Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 368 pages
Angry Robot Books, February 11, 2016 (UK Print)

You’d have to be mad to steal from the feared International Patent Office. But that’s what Elizabeth Barnabus is about to try. A one-time enemy from the circus has persuaded her to attempt a heist that will be the ultimate conjuring trick.

Hidden in the vaults of the Patent Court in London lie secrets that could shake the very pillars of the Gas-Lit Empire. All that stands in Elizabeth’s way are the agents of the Patent Office, a Duke’s private army and the mysterious Custodian of Marvels.

Rod Duncan returns with the climactic volume of The Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire, the breathtaking alternate history series that began with the Philip K. Dick Award-nominated The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter.

File Under: Fantasy [ Time Runs Out | The Duke’s Enemy | Open the Vault | A Union ]




Melanie's Year in Review - January 1, 2017
Magic Binds
A Kate Daniels Novel
Ace, September 20, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 336 pages

Mercenary Kate Daniels knows all too well that magic in post-Shift Atlanta is a dangerous business. But nothing she’s faced could have prepared her for this…

Kate and the former Beast Lord Curran Lennart are finally making their relationship official. But there are some steep obstacles standing in the way of their walk to the altar…

Kate’s father, Roland, has kidnapped the demigod Saiman and is slowly bleeding him dry in his never-ending bid for power. A Witch Oracle has predicted that if Kate marries the man she loves, Atlanta will burn and she will lose him forever. And the only person Kate can ask for help is long dead.

The odds are impossible. The future is grim.  But Kate Daniels has never been one to play by the rules…



Melanie's Year in Review - January 1, 2017
The Ghost Rebellion
The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences 5
ImagineThat! Studios, June 17, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, pages

From authors Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris, the award winning steampunk series continues...

The chase is on! After rescuing Queen Victoria from the clutches of the Maestro, Agents Eliza D Braun and Wellington Books are in hot pursuit of Dr Henry Jekyll. While he continues his experiments on the aristocracy of Europe, he leaves a trail of chaos and despair in his wake. However when Eliza and Wellington run him to ground in India, they are forced to come face to face with ghosts from the past, and the realities of empire.

Meanwhile Ministry agents Brandon Hill and Bruce Campbell travel deep into Russia hunting down a rare ingredient to save Queen Victoria's life. Amid the cold they uncover a threat from the revitalized House of Usher that comes directly from their new Chairman.

All in the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences will find their allegiances in question, and their mettle tested as a new dastardly era of international intrigue dawns.


Guest Blog by Michael McClung - Character Counts: Introducing the Amra Thetys Series


Please welcome Michael McClung to The Qwillery. The Thief Who Wasn't There (Amra Thetys 4) was published on November 15, 2016 by Ragnarok Publications.



Guest Blog by Michael McClung - Character Counts: Introducing the Amra Thetys Series




Character Counts: Introducing the Amra Thetys Series

Sometimes an idea for a novel (seemingly, at least) jumps out of a writer's brain fully-formed, like Athena springing from Zeus's forehead. Other times, it can start with a single image, as John Fowles's The French Lieutenant's Woman is said to have done:
John Fowles often found his storytelling skills inspired by mental images, scenes that evoke a sense of mystery and demand an explanation. In December 1966, he had one of these charged visions. “A woman stands at the end of a deserted quay and stares out to sea,” he later recalled. “This image rose in my mind one morning when I was still in bed half asleep.”
The creation of the Amra Thetys series bears more resemblance to Fowles's Sarah Woodruff than any Greek creation myth. I was sitting in my terrible motel room-turned apartment in Austin, Texas. It was 2001 or 2002, and I was trying to teach myself how to write fiction on an old Brother word processor. I don't remember if I was lying down or taking a shower or eating a sandwich over the sink (the apartment was small enough that I could almost have been doing all three at once), but I do remember that first image: A person standing high up in a broken tower, surveying a storm-lashed, deserted, ruined city. This person's back was to me, and at first I thought it was a young man (I knew somehow already that this person was a thief) Then I realized it was a woman who was not effeminate, either in looks or demeanor, and that she was starving.

From there the questions flowed – what was she doing there? If she was starving, why didn't she leave? What was she looking at? In time, all the questions led to answers which led to more questions, and soon enough I had a little fourteen thousand word novella, a couple of characters that I really enjoyed writing about, and the makings of a world that, while it wasn't very deep, was really quite broad. Soon enough after that, the novella had expanded into a novel (now titled The Thief Who Spat in Luck's Good Eye).

Now it's coming to the end of 2016, and there are four Amra Thetys books out there in the wild; people seem to like them okay, for the most part. The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble's Braids (first in the series, second written) won Mark Lawrence's SPFBO for 2015-2016, and Luck's Good Eye (then titled THAGOTH) was a Del Rey Digitial First Novel Competition winner in 2002.

Very little of the writing in the Amra Thetys series was ever done with a conscious eye toward the market, or trends. They're short books, for the fantasy genre – south of three hundred pages. They're first person point of view. They're much more sword & sorcery, and even noir/hardboiled detective, then they are epic fantasy, at least on the surface. They've even been accused of having steampunk elements.

None of these elements, needless to say, are calculated to give George R.R. Martin a run for his money. So why then, have they enjoyed the small but real success that they have? The author is probably the worst person to answer such a question, but I think that the appeal of the series is all in the characters.

The fact is, Amra and her companion Holgren aren't perfect people. Sure, they're smart and capable, and on balance you'd have to tip them into the bucket marked 'good guys' (though both would go screaming their protests, and try to claw their way out as soon as they landed). But what I like about them is their humanity – they both have parts, both physical and emotional, that have been broken, and have healed imperfectly, and it shows in their thoughts, their dialogue, their choices and actions. Paragons are widely admired, but seldom liked. Amra and Holgren are far from paragons.

I think that any fiction, be it written or filmed, has a much better chance of meaning something to readers if the characters who inhabit it are believable. That's why I've worked very hard to make sure that every character in the series – even the ones with walk-on parts – are constructed with something sturdier than cardboard. Many of them are pretty despicable, and at least a couple are definitely insane, but I made a point to try and make them interesting and believable.

My personal preference is for stories about people, rather than plot-driven tales. If you as a reader have the same taste, I hope you'll give the Amra Thetys series a try, and tell me what you thought.





The Thief Who Wasn't There
Amra Thetys 4
Ragnarok Publications, November 15, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 348 pages

Guest Blog by Michael McClung - Character Counts: Introducing the Amra Thetys Series
Bellarius, saved from utter destruction, is now plunged into vicious civil war. Amra has vanished, and while Holgren has a plan to find her and bring her back, his plan teeters between impossibility and insanity.

Before he can even implement it, Holgren will have to deal with three separate armies vying for control of Bellaria, all of which view him as either a threat, an inconvenience, or a potential tool.

Meanwhile, Holgren seeks to trap one of the monstrous rift-spawn — abominations born of the Telemarch's madness and power — and bend it to his will. Then, he intends to descend into the eleven hells to steal an ancient artifact of incredible power from the dire halls of the Black Library.

Oh, the things we do for love.

The Thief Who Wasn't There is the fourth volume in Michael McClung's Amra Thetys series.





About Michael

Guest Blog by Michael McClung - Character Counts: Introducing the Amra Thetys Series
Michael McClung was born and raised in Texas, but now kicks around Southeast Asia. He's been a soldier, a cook, a book store manager, and a bowling alley pin boy.

His first novel was published by Random House in 2003. He then self-published the first three books of the Amra Thetys series, the first being The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble's Braids, before signing them and the fourth book (The Thief Who Wasn't There) with Ragnarok.

In Michael's spare time, he enjoys kickball, brooding, and picking scabs.

Website  ~   Twitter @mcclungmike





Previously

The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble's Braids
Amra Thetys 1
Ragnarok Publications, September 1, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 298 pages

Guest Blog by Michael McClung - Character Counts: Introducing the Amra Thetys Series
"They butchered Corbin right out in the street. That’s how it really started. He was a rogue and a thief, of course. But then, so am I. So when he got himself hacked up in front of his house off Silk Street, I decided somebody had to be made to pay. They thought that they could just sweep him away like rubbish. They were wrong."

Amra Thetys is a thief with morals: she won't steal from anybody poorer than she is; of course, anybody that poor generally doesn't have much worth stealing.

When a fellow thief and good friend is killed in a deal gone wrong, Amra turns her back on burglary and goes after something far more precious: revenge. Revenge, however, might be hard to come by. A nightmare assortment of enemies, including an immortal assassin and a mad sorcerer, believe Amra is in possession of The Blade That Whispers Hate—the legendary, powerful artifact her friend was murdered for—and they'll do anything to take it from her.

Trouble is, Amra hasn't got the least clue where the Blade might be. She needs to find the Blade, and soon, or she'll be joining her unfortunate friend in a cold grave rather than avenging his death, and time is running short for the small, scarred thief.

The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble's Braids is the first volume in Michael McClung's Amra Thetys series.


See Melanie's Review here.



The Thief Who Spat in Luck's Good Eye
Amra Thetys 2
Ragnarok Publications, June 1, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 286 pages

Guest Blog by Michael McClung - Character Counts: Introducing the Amra Thetys Series
Amra Thetys is a thief with morals: she won't steal from anybody poorer than she is; of course, anybody that poor generally doesn't have much worth stealing.

Holgren is a mage with a distaste for magic and a soul bartered away to dark powers. Together, they embark on a quest for the fabled city of Thagoth, where the secret of immortality is rumored to be hidden.

Yet, Amra and Holgren aren’t the only ones after the secret. Many others seek to utilize the hidden magic for their own twisted ends. Waiting in the ruined city with dark plans for the world are the twin gods Tha-Agoth and Athagos, a brother and sister whose illicit passion is as destructive and vengeful as they are.

Now, as potent sorceries clash in a violent struggle for dominion over all that lives, Amra and Holgren face a choice between the unthinkable and the unbearable—with the fate of the world hanging in the balance.

The Thief Who Spat in Luck's Good Eye is the second volume in Michael McClung's Amra Thetys series.


See Melanie's Review here.



The Thief Who Knocked on Sorrow's Gate
Amra Thetys 3
Ragnarok Publications, June 1, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 250 pages

Guest Blog by Michael McClung - Character Counts: Introducing the Amra Thetys Series
After surviving Thagoth and returning rich to Lucernis, Amra and Holgren have settled down to a very comfortable, if decidedly unexciting life—until the night Amra receives an old enemy's head in a box. A longstanding debt calls her back home to Bellarius, the scene of many childhood horrors she would much rather forget about.

Yet, as bad as memories of the past might be, present-day Bellarius is rapidly becoming worse, for the Eightfold Goddess has not forgotten about Amra, and another of Her Blades, the Knife that Parts the Night, has been discovered and threatens to tear the very fabric of reality apart.

All that stands in the way of utter destruction is one small, scarred thief and her mage companion.

The Thief Who Knocked on Sorrow's Gate is the third volume in Michael McClung's Amra Thetys series.


See Melanie's Review here.





Melanie's Week in Review - July 31, 2016


Melanie's Week in Review - July 31, 2016


Hello! Happy end of July.  I can't believe it is halfway through summer already and I have only had 1 week of nice weather. Boo!  On the upside I am starting a new job in August and this was my penultimate week in my current one.  I got to see half of my fave colleagues and the other half this week coming. My new job means I will have more time commuting on the tube which should mean I read more.  Fingers crossed, as that is the plan.  I read two great books this week.  Let me tell you all about them.


Melanie's Week in Review - July 31, 2016
Lucky me got a copy of The Thief Who Knocked on Sorrow's Gate by Michael McClung from the publisher, Ragnarok Publications. Mainly because I was practically crying I couldn't buy the next instalment! Thank you to the generous publisher. McClung was the winner of the very first SPFBO with The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble's Braids. I really enjoyed it and book number 2 - The Thief that Spat in Luck's Good Eye.

In this instalment Amra is enjoying her new life in her lovely big mansion with the former mage Holgren. Well she was enjoying it until she receives a box containing the head of an enemy from her hometown of Bellarius. Despite never wanting to step foot in Bellarius every again she finds herself back and trying to outwit one assassination attempt after another. The gods have decided to meddle in human affairs and the Eighthfold Goddess particularly likes to meddle with Amra. It's not long before Amra discovers that a very special knife - The Knife that Parts the Night has been found which will be used to tear the fabric of reality apart....well unless Amra can stop it, of course. Another dangerous adventure for the reformed thief.

I really enjoyed this instalment of the series. We learn a bit more about Amra's past and how she ended up as a thief. It isn't a pleasant tale and one that Amra wishes she could forget. We also find out about Amra's family and what happened to her parents. The purging of the street children of Bellarius right before Amra escaped was a key theme of the story and one that weaves itself into the overall plot. The ending was very dramatic and we are left almost falling off a Mount Everest sized cliff hanger. Book 4 won't be released until later this year and it can't come soon enough.

See all of Michael McClung's novels at Ragnarok here.


Melanie's Week in Review - July 31, 2016
Book number 2 for me was also book number 2 of the Unhuman series by Wilkie Martin - Inspector Hobbes and the Curse. This series is addictive and very, very funny. We are back with the accident prone Andy Caplet who is still living with Inspector Hobbes, Mrs. Goodfellow who can cook a mean curry and Dregs the dog. When some local sheep end up dead Hobbes and Andy are on the case which takes them to the local wild animal park where Andy meets the beautiful Violet. Immediately infatuated Andy tries his best to impress but fails miserably, much to my amusement. Sightings of big cats, escaped elephants and a murder or two are the all pieces of the case that Hobbes, with Andy's help, must solve before anyone else gets hurt.

Martin has the gift for merging some really funny situations with a good mystery. I was laughing even more at Andy's antics and internal musings than I was at book 1. There is the most hilarious scene when Andy falls foul of the local cider at the town fair. Luckily I was at home when reading this scene so didn't have to suffer any quizzical looks from fellow commuters as I laughed out loud. Andy and Hobbes are a great pair and their adventures make for a series that you can't stop reading.

See Wilkie Martin's novels at his website here.


That is it for me this week. I hope you have had a good week and until next Happy Reading.

Melanie's Week in Review - July 17, 2016


Melanie's Week in Review - July 17, 2016

Hello everyone. I hope you are having a great summer. My family keep sending me emails saying how hot they are with the temperatures in the 30C (86F) while we are not enjoying the glumest, coolest summer in years. I am writing this on one of the only days I have been able to comfortably wear shorts all day.
Boo!

Melanie's Week in Review - July 17, 2016
I am still very busy reading self published fantasy for SPFBO but decided to have a read of last year's winner Michael McClung's The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble's Braids which won the first SPFBO and is now published by Ragnarok Publications. I really enjoyed the story of Amra Thetys, the thief with a heart. When Amra's friend and fellow thief Corbin leaves her with an ugly toad-like statue right before being brutally murdered. Amra decides to get revenge for her friend. This isn't an easy task especially when she discovers what and who she is up against. Sorcery, magic and a great murder mystery all rolled up into this first instalment of the Amra Thetys series.

It was a relief to read an originally self-published book that I actually enjoyed since I have not had much luck with the ones I have read for SPFBO2016. Amra is a great character and despite the fact that she is part of the criminal element she does live by a strong moral code and dedicated to her friends. There are a number of great characters in this story and McClung has created an interesting world/society for Amra to live in. In fact, I am hard pressed to say anything negative about this book. It was only a few minutes after finishing instalment one that I had instalment two downloaded


Melanie's Week in Review - July 17, 2016
The Thief Who Spat in Luck's Good Eye starts not long after the events of book 1. The gods are looking for a hero....and basically to mess around with a couple of humans and look no farther than the thief Amra and her mage friend Holgren. Amra agrees to help Holgren search for the lost city of Thagoth to find the secret to immortality. Waiting for them in the lost city are the twin gods Tha Agoth and Anthagos whose elicit affair is as damaging as it is dangerous. Amra and Holgren might be pawns of the gods but when a mad sorcerer wants to use the twins to gain enough power to take over the world the thief and the mage know exactly what they need to do....whatever the risk.

I enjoyed book 2 as much as book 1 and despite its rather more serious tone it was quite amusing in parts. We also got to learn more of Amra's past and how she came to be a thief. There was also a significant development in Amra and Holgren's relationship that helped to make these two more believable as characters. This instalment was a lot more fantasy than book 1 but just as enjoyable. I enjoyed it so much that I was really looking forward to piling into to book 3, The Thief Who Knocked on Sorrow's Gate, and I will have a review copy soon!


Melanie's Week in Review - July 17, 2016
Back to SPFBO2016 and I picked up Purge of Ashes by Joel Minty. I am afraid dear reader that I didn't make it past page 20 of this high fantasy story. I tried to give it a go as I don't like giving up on a book after so few pages but I couldn't do it. Purge of Ashes was not the book for me.  I don't enjoy flowery, verbose prose, 10+ main characters or short stilted chapters in which you have no clue what is going on.  This is a DNF for me.


That is it for me this week. I have 1 more book for this round of the SPFBO and I am keeping my fingers crossed that I like it. Come back next week and see what I thought but until then Happy Reading.

Melanie's Month in Review - August 2019Melanie's Week in Review - January 15, 2017Melanie's Year in Review - January 1, 2017Guest Blog by Michael McClung - Character Counts: Introducing the Amra Thetys SeriesMelanie's Week in Review - July 31, 2016Melanie's Week in Review - July 17, 2016

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