The Qwillery | category: Philip Pullman


The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Melanie's Top Reads of 2019

There was a point this year when I was really worried that I wouldn't be able to write a 'best of' post this year. I found it hard to find books I wanted to read, but more importantly, books I really enjoyed reading. I did hit the jackpot and found some books I really adored and here are my top 5 reads of 2019, starting in reverse order:

Melanie's Top Reads of 2019
Number 5 - Circe by Madeline Miller 

Back in April I finally decided to check out a recommendation from one of my friends Circe by Madeline Miller. I had the audio version of the book so this is technically a 'listen to' rather than a read...but lets not split hairs. Perdita Weeks brought the troubled daughter of the sun god Helios to life, as we follow Circe from her home with the gods, to her exile by Zeus on Aiaia. Miller creates a fantastic story for the mythical Circe and interweaves a number of other myths and mythical characters to share the stage with her. Miller has received awards and accolades for this Circe and here is one more - one of my fave books of 2019!

Melanie's Top Reads of 2019
Number 4 - Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan

In July I took my sister's advice this time and purchased Machines Like Me (again another audio book). I loved everything about this book - the alternate history of 80's Britain, McEwan's android science, the moral conflict and finally, the narrator - Billy Howle. McEwan is one of those authors who are a bit hit and miss with me but this time it was a big hit. See my thoughts here.

Melanie's Top Reads of 2019
Number 3 - Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden

I thoroughly enjoyed Arden's Winternight trilogy and thought that The Winter of the Witch was a fantastic ending to this series. Again, this was another audio book (I did actually read some books!) and the narration, again was amazing. In this final instalment we join Vasya on the end of her magical journey that is steeped in Russian folklore.  I liked it sooo much I wrote a full review if you want to check it out here.

Melanie's Top Reads of 2019
Number 2 - La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman

I was late to the prequel of the His Dark Materials party.  I had La Belle Sauvage on my TBR (yes Audible library) for too long before I decided I needed to find out what it was all about.  I was totally gripped from the first word until the last. Michael Sheen is a superlative narrator but it's Pullman's story that really shines through here. The young Malcolm, his daemon and the baby Lyra have an epic adventure that only Pullman could tell.  I almost think I liked this story better than the original  - His Dark Materials.

Melanie's Top Reads of 2019
Number 1 - it's a tie for first place in my book reading heart for 2019

A Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

A Thousand Doors of January tells the story of January Scaller and her life as the ward of the very wealthy Mr Locke. The story flits from past to present and from one world to another and it's not until near the very end that the reader gets to discover the intricacies of Harrow's plot.  Needless to say I loved this book and what is even more exceptional is that it is a debut novel. Kudos x 10 to Harrow for this very first novel. I wrote a full review if you want to find out more. Check it out here.

Melanie's Top Reads of 2019
The Binding by Bridget Collins

I described The Binding in my review as a gentle love story but the more I think about my description of the story I don't think I did the book justice. There is a real ethereal and haunting quality to this story. The binding and what it really means for the main protagonist Emmett isn't uncovered until most of the way through which adds to the tension and the mood of story itself. This is a book that stays with you and even a year later (almost) I am still caught up thinking about Emmett and what happened to him and imagining what could happen next. Great book and a fantastic audio book as well.

Well that is faves of 2019.

I have an honourable mention (well mentions) - Aching God and Sin Eater by Michael Shel. Aching God was a finalist in the SPFBO 4 and one of Qwill's faves in 2018 but I only just read it in 2019. This is an amazing book and Sin Eater is even better. Thought I would keep these two as 'mentions' as Aching God was part of the SPFBO. My recommendation is to read both together to get the full effect. I can hardly wait for book 3 to come out.

I would love find out what your top reads of 2019 were so please leave me your top picks in the comments section.

Little, Brown and Company, April 10, 2018
Hardcover and eBook, 400 pages

Melanie's Top Reads of 2019
“A bold and subversive retelling of the goddess’s story,” this #1 New York Times bestseller is “both epic and intimate in its scope, recasting the most infamous female figure from the Odyssey as a hero in her own right” (Alexandra Alter, The New York Times).

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child–not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power–the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.

But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.

With unforgettably vivid characters, mesmerizing language and page-turning suspense, Circe is a triumph of storytelling, an intoxicating epic of family rivalry, palace intrigue, love and loss, as well as a celebration of indomitable female strength in a man’s world.

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER–NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NPR, The Washington Post, People, Time, Amazon, Entertainment Weekly, Bustle, Newsweek, the A.V. Club, Christian Science Monitor and Refinery 29, Buzzfeed, Paste, Audible, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Thrillist, NYPL, Self Real Simple, Goodreads, Boston Globe, Electric Literature, BookPage, the Guardian, Book Riot, Seattle Times, and Business Insider

Machines Like Me
Nan A. Telese, April 23, 2019
Hardcover and eBook, 352 pages

Melanie's Top Reads of 2019
New from Ian McEwan, Booker Prize winner and international bestselling author of Atonement and The Children Act

Machines Like Me takes place in an alternative 1980s London. Charlie, drifting through life and dodging full-time employment, is in love with Miranda, a bright student who lives with a terrible secret. When Charlie comes into money, he buys Adam, one of the first synthetic humans and—with Miranda’s help—he designs Adam’s personality. The near-perfect human that emerges is beautiful, strong, and clever. It isn’t long before a love triangle soon forms, and these three beings confront a profound moral dilemma.

In his subversive new novel, Ian McEwan asks whether a machine can understand the human heart—or whether we are the ones who lack understanding.

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 Top Reads of 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.

La Belle Sauvage
The Book of Dust 1
June 4, 2019
Trade Paperback, 480 pages
 eBook, October 19, 2017

Melanie's Top Reads of 2019

Philip Pullman returns to the parallel world of His Dark Materials–soon to be an HBO original series starring Dafne Keen, Ruth Wilson, James McAvoy, and Lin-Manuel Miranda–to expand on the story of Lyra, “one of fantasy’s most indelible heroines” (The New York Times Magazine).

Don’t miss Volume II of The Book of Dust: The Secret Commonwealth

Malcolm Polstead and his daemon, Asta, are used to overhearing news and the occasional scandal at the inn run by his family. But during a winter of unceasing rain, Malcolm finds a mysterious object—and finds himself in grave danger.

Inside the object is a cryptic message about something called Dust; and it’s not long before Malcolm is approached by the spy for whom this message was actually intended. When she asks Malcolm to keep his eyes open, he begins to notice suspicious characters everywhere: the explorer Lord Asriel, clearly on the run; enforcement agents from the Magisterium; a gyptian named Coram with warnings just for Malcolm; and a beautiful woman with an evil monkey for a daemon. All are asking about the same thing: a girl—just a baby—named Lyra.

Lyra is at the center of a storm, and Malcolm will brave any peril, and make shocking sacrifices, to bring her safely through it.

“Too few things in our world are worth a seventeen-year wait: The Book of Dust is one of them.” —The Washington Post
“The book is full of wonder. . . . Truly thrilling.” —The New York Times
“People will love the first volume of Philip Pullman’s new trilogy with the same helpless vehemence that stole over them when The Golden Compass came out.” —Slate

A Thousand Doors of January
Redhook, September 10, 2019
Hardcover and eBook, 384 pages

Melanie's Top Reads of 2019
In the early 1900s, a young woman embarks on a fantastical journey of self-discovery after finding a mysterious book in this captivating and lyrical debut.

In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place.

Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.

Lush and richly imagined, a tale of impossible journeys, unforgettable love, and the enduring power of stories awaits in Alix E. Harrow’s spellbinding debut–step inside and discover its magic.

The Binding
William Morrow, April 16, 2019
Hardcover and eBook, 448 pages

Melanie's Top Reads of 2019
Proclaimed as “truly spellbinding,” a “great fable” that “functions as transporting romance” by the Guardian, the runaway #1 international bestseller

"A rich, gothic entertainment that explores what books have trapped inside them and reminds us of the power of storytelling. Spellbinding.” — TRACY CHEVALIER

Imagine you could erase grief.
Imagine you could remove pain.
Imagine you could hide the darkest, most horrifying secret.

Young Emmett Farmer is working in the fields when a strange letter arrives summoning him away from his family. He is to begin an apprenticeship as a Bookbinder—a vocation that arouses fear, superstition, and prejudice amongst their small community, but one neither he nor his parents can afford to refuse.

For as long as he can recall, Emmett has been drawn to books, even though they are strictly forbidden. Bookbinding is a sacred calling, Seredith informs her new apprentice, and he is a binder born. Under the old woman’s watchful eye, Emmett learns to hand-craft the elegant leather-bound volumes. Within each one they will capture something unique and extraordinary: a memory. If there’s something you want to forget, a binder can help. If there’s something you need to erase, they can assist. Within the pages of the books they create, secrets are concealed and the past is locked away. In a vault under his mentor’s workshop rows upon rows of books are meticulously stored.

But while Seredith is an artisan, there are others of their kind, avaricious and amoral tradesman who use their talents for dark ends—and just as Emmett begins to settle into his new circumstances, he makes an astonishing discovery: one of the books has his name on it. Soon, everything he thought he understood about his life will be dramatically rewritten.

An unforgettable novel of enchantment, mystery, memory, and forbidden love, The Binding is a beautiful homage to the allure and life-changing power of books—and a reminder to us all that knowledge can be its own kind of magic.

Honorable Mention

Aching God
Iconoclasts 1
April 9, 2018
   eBook, 604 pages
March 27, 2019
   Trade Paperback 602 pages

Melanie's Top Reads of 2019
“Closer, mortal. You are here, finally, to feed the Aching God…”

The days of adventure are passed for Auric Manteo. Retired to the countryside and isolated with his scars and riches, he no longer delves into forbidden ruins seeking dark wisdom and treasure. But just as old nightmares begin plaguing his sleep, he receives an urgent summons back to that old life.

To save his only daughter, he must return to the place of his greatest trauma: the haunted Barrowlands. Along with a group of inexperienced companions and an old soldier, he must confront the dangers of the ancient and wicked Djao civilization. He has survived fell beasts, insidious traps, and deadly hazards before. But how can he contend with the malice of a bloodthirsty living god?

First volume in the planned epic fantasy trilogy Iconoclasts, Aching God is the debut novel by RPG adventure designer Mike Shel.

Also included is an advanced preview of Iconoclasts - Book II: Sin Eater.

Sin Eater
Iconoclasts 2
May 20,  2019
Trade Paperback and eBook, 574 pages

Melanie's Top Reads of 2019


A year has passed since Auric Manteo descended into the haunted depths of a Djao ruin to return a lethal artifact, only to face down a bloodthirsty, imprisoned god. Now his daughter Agnes comes to bring him back to the capital with promises of hidden secrets finally revealed.

But the city decays, poisonous disorder is rife, and whispered prophecy foretells of cataclysm and doom. Summoned by their no-longer human queen, Auric and Agnes are commanded to carry out an impossible task, one that can be accomplished only with the mysterious blade Szaa’da’shaela, gifted to Auric on a lunatic's whim.

Can Auric and his daughter survive a journey fraught with blood, menace, and madness? And can they pay the price demanded by a being every bit as evil as the Aching God?

Sin Eater is the sequel to 2018’s widely praised Aching God and book 2 of the Iconoclasts Trilogy. Get your copy today!

Melanie's Month in Review - November 2019

Melanie's Month in Review - November 2019

Happy belated Thanksgiving to any and all American readers who celebrate. I hope you had a great time and there was lots of pumpkin pie on hand. I miss pumpkin pie. The Brits don't really eat it and so hard to get good pumpkin. Ho hum....although there are lots of British desserts that I can scoff instead 😋

November was a busy reading month for me as I am one of the Qwillery's agents for SPFBO5. It was the month where we read each other's choice for semi-finalist. Despite thinking I had loads of time to get them all read at a leisurely pace I ended up struggling with one of them and that seemed to eat my reading time. However, despite that the Qwillery's reviewing team made its selection to go forward to the finals. Check out the blog to find out which book we picked.  But the big question I am sure you are asking what else did I read?

Melanie's Month in Review - November 2019
For those of you who follow this series you will remember that in October I was listening to the audio version of the Sally Lockhart series by Philip Pullman. I have the two final books to tell you about starting with The Tiger in the Well. This instalment is set 3-4 years after The Tin Princess and Sally is now a mother, successful business woman and enjoying life surrounded by her friends. When she receives a summons to appear in court charged with abandoning the husband she knows she never married and to hand over custody of her most beloved daughter Harriett, Sally couldn't possibly imagine the chaos that her life would become. Someone was working behind the scenes to dismantle the life that Sally has so carefully made for herself. On the run with her daughter Sally has to figure out who is pulling the strings and why they want to take everything and everyone she loves away from her.

I listened to these books back to back and I rather spoiled it for myself.  I had to take a bit of a break after the first few chapters as I felt a bit like too much of a Sally at once wasn't a good thing. I needed to savour the plotline so gave it a rest of a week or so and then tucked back in. This story is very suspenseful as Sally is nearly thwarted every other page.  I did think she was a bit dim in not guessing who was behind her downfall and I found myself wanting to give Sally a bit of a shake. It's a great end to Sally's story though and Anton Lesser does another stellar job bring her and all the east end characters to life.

Melanie's Month in Review - November 2019
The Tin Princess is not about Sally. This story is about Sally's best friend Jim and his adventure with with Adelaide, the little girl he helped rescue in book 1. Adelaide has been missing for many years but she is back and out to become a princess of the made up country of Razkavia. Jim is hired as Adelaide's bodyguard and he will need every trick up his cockney sleeve to protect the princess.

The big mystery in The Tin Princess is not who is trying to harm the Princess or how Jim is going to save the day. The mystery is why Pullman chose to write this story in the first place. Other than Sally having a very minor part at the both ends of the book it isn't a book about her despite it being the 4th instalment in the Sally Lockhart series. The story is OK but definitely the weakest of the four. The aspect that I have liked about the other books is that there was a historical element to the story which gave it a hint of realism. Much of the The Tin Princess was set in a fictional country and Adelaide with her strong east end London accent and lack of education would not have been a top pick to marry into the royal family. I found this aspect of the plot to be a combo of Pretty Woman and The Princess Diaries. Another minor downside in the audio version is the change in narrator. This time the story is told by Nigel Anthony and the change in 'voice' was a bit jarring after spending 3 books with Anton Lesser's version of Jim.

Melanie's Month in Review - November 2019
The other book I listened to was I, Partridge: We need to talk by Alan Partridge and narrated by Alan Partridge. Alan Partridge is the brain child of Steve Coogan, a famous British Comedian. I won't go into too much detail because Alan Partridge is a bit marmite (you either love him or hate him). If you are a fan then get the audio version because quite simply 'its hilarious!'.

Check out the review of the other book I read in November - Kitty Peck and the Parliament of Shadows.

Well that's it for me and November. I hope you have found some great books to tuck into along with some pumpkin pie! Until next time Happy Reading!

Melanie's Month in Review - October 2019

Melanie's Month in Review - October 2019

Apologies dear readers. I had so wanted to get my October Month in Review posted in October. I could have done it and was pretty close to having it written. Alas, the lurgy hit with probably the worst case of sinusitus I have had in at least a decade. I could barely think let alone write a review. There was almost tears folks especially when my GP told me she didn't want to give me any antibiotics because of the growing resistance to them.  Boooo. I am not quite 100% but thought I better get my review out to you before it turned into an October & November months in review. So what did I read?

Melanie's Month in Review - October 2019
I am going to start with what I listened to rather than the first book I devoured in October. All hail the fantastic combination of Philip Pullman and Michael Sheen with The Secret Commonwealth the second in the Book of Dust series. If you read my September post you will know that I thoroughly enjoyed book 1 La Belle Sauvage (the audio version) and this instalment is even better. Set 20 years later and Lyra is now a young woman, studying at university while Malcolm in a professor and agent of Oakley street. When Lyra's daemon Pantalaimon witnesses the murder of a botanist no one would have ever guessed the epic journey he and Lyra would find themselves on. Across Europe and to Asia Lyra, Pan and separately, Malcolm find themselves on the search for  a city haunted by daemons and to uncover the secret of Dust. All with the Ministerium's agents in hot pursuit. The race is on!

I thoroughly enjoyed The Secret Commonwealth even though I found the adult Lyra a bit obnoxious in parts. Michael Sheen's performance narrating this tale is a masterpiece. He had me on the edge of my seat throughout. There is one scene in a train station and he does so many different voices it was like you are watching a play or a movie. Pullman successfully advances the plot line, in fact, several different plot threads and slowly develops Lyra and Pan. He has been quite ambitious and I think he is going to struggle to wrap everything up in the final book. I am not sure how he is going to do it without leaving a few teasers. Just a note to parents and guardians. This isn't a suitable book for a younger reader due to one of the scenes is quite disturbing and adult in nature. I don't want to say any more and give anything away.  For anyone who isn't a young reader and fans of this series this is a must read and for added tension go for the audio version.

Melanie's Month in Review - October 2019
Next up is Mark Lawrence's One Word Kill which is the first in the series Impossible Times. Set in the mid 80's Nick is a pretty normal Dungeon and Dragons loving teen. He has friends and doing OK in school and things start to look up when the new girl  in school decides to join his group of friends and D&D games. Everything changes when he finds out he is dying...dying from cancer. The diagnosis is only the start of big changes that are about to take hold of his life.  A strange, yet very familiar man enters his life with a cryptic message and an uncanny knowledge of Nick's life. He has to save the girl. What can this mean and why? Nick is soon to discover that something or someone else might end his life before the cancer does and its game on.

I enjoyed One Word Kill. While the plot isn't that challenging (I always guessed what would happen next) it was quick and enjoyable read. It wasn't as harrowing as some of Lawrence's other novels which was a bit of a change for me. I thought Nick was a believable D&D fan who had a 'Stranger Things' like group of friends that all had their own part to play in the story. The plot was well paced but while Nick was well developed, not all of the characters were. Certain characters, especially the main villain were a bit one dimensional. However, Nick's experiences with chemo and the people he met while having it were very believable and true to life. I don't know if Lawrence has personal experience with childhood cancer/cancer treatment but this was very well done. I have book number 2 - Limited Wish all ready to go. Stay tuned to find out what happens next.

Melanie's Month in Review - October 2019
Back to my audio selection - I went back in time but still on a Pullman theme and listened to his Sally Lockhart series. In this post I am going to tell you about the first 2 novels The Ruby in the Smoke and The Shadow in the North. I read these novels around the same time as His Dark Materials but Pullman first published them in the late 80s. The Ruby in the Smoke is set in the late 19th century and the teenage Sally believes her father has died in a tragic accident on sailing back from Singapore. When she receives a cryptic message from her father she couldn't possible imagine the dangerous mystery she would be embroiled in. Lucky for Sally she meets people who would soon become her family and they would do anything to keep her out of harms way.  It's a mystery of a different kind on The Shadow in the North. Sally is now in her early 20s and a financial consultant. When one of her clients loses all their life savings in an failed investment Sally is determined to uncover what has gone wrong and to get the money back. This mystery takes Sally and her friends all over London and England following the money trail with rather tragic results.

Melanie's Month in Review - October 2019
The audio version is narrated by Anton Lesser (think Game of Thrones) which was quite interesting to have a male narrator when the majority of the book is told from one of the female characters POV. He is excellent. While maybe Lesser doesn't generate quite as much excitement as Michael Sheen he is a very, very gifted actor and is very believable with both female and male voices. Both books are very enjoyable with a great mysteries to solve and a great set of characters to join Sally. I especially loved Jim, Sally's friend. He has all the best lines and would do anything to protect Sally and all their friends. Whether you chose to read the traditional book version or the audio version these are a great series of books that give you a glimpse into life in late 19th century England.

Melanie's Month in Review - October 2019
Last up is Bec McMaster's newest Promise of Darkness which is book 1 of the Dark Court Rising series. Princess Iskvien is caught in the middle of the war between the Queen of Thorns and the Prince of Evernight. As part of an ancient treaty the Princess is forced to become a political hostage for three months. Her mother expects her kill the Prince when she is in his court but one look into his handsome face she knows she can't end his life. The longer Vi is around the Prince the more something doesn't seem right. He doesn't seem to be as evil as her mother has portrayed. Who is telling the truth? Who is the real enemy? Vi has only three months to find out.

This book is described as a twisted fairy tale and that is a an apt description. The story is full of the fairy courts, demons and mythology the romance between Vi and Thiago is almost secondary to that back story. I thought this book was a teeny tiny departure for McMaster in the hot and heavy didn't start between our lovebirds until nearly the end of the book. I really felt that McMaster was telling a story rather than than just bringing two characters together in an romantic entanglement. I will definitely will continue with this series.

Well folks that is it for me and October...or October in November. I am keeping my fingers crossed that I get rid of this cold and feeling fit as a fiddle so that I can share with you my November reads before mid December. Until next time Happy Reading.

The Secret Commonwealth
The Book of Dust 2
Audible Audiobook, October 3, 2019

Melanie's Month in Review - October 2019
The #1 New York Times Bestseller!

Return to the world of His Dark Materials—soon to be an HBO original series starring Dafne Keen, Ruth Wilson, James McAvoy, and Lin-Manuel Miranda—in the second volume of Philip Pullman’s new bestselling masterwork The Book of Dust.

The windows between the many worlds have been sealed and the momentous adventures of Lyra Silvertongue’s youth are long behind her—or so she thought. Lyra is now a twenty-year-old undergraduate at St. Sophia’s College and intrigue is swirling around her once more. Her daemon Pantalaimon is witness to a brutal murder, and the dying man entrusts them with secrets that carry echoes from their past.

The more Lyra is drawn into these mysteries, the less she is sure of. Even the events of her own past come into question when she learns of Malcolm Polstead’s role in bringing her to Jordan College.

Now Lyra and Malcolm will travel far beyond the confines of Oxford, across Europe and into the Levant, searching for a city haunted by daemons, and a desert said to hold the truth of Dust. The dangers they face will challenge everything they thought they knew about the world, and about themselves.

One Word Kill
Impossible Times 1
47North, May 1, 2019
Hardcover, Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 204 pages

Melanie's Month in Review - October 2019
Ready Player One meets Stranger Things in this new novel by the bestselling author whom George RR Martin describes as “an excellent writer.”

In January 1986, fifteen-year-old boy-genius Nick Hayes discovers he’s dying. And it isn’t even the strangest thing to happen to him that week.

Nick and his Dungeons & Dragons-playing friends are used to living in their imaginations. But when a new girl, Mia, joins the group and reality becomes weirder than the fantasy world they visit in their weekly games, none of them are prepared for what comes next. A strange—yet curiously familiar—man is following Nick, with abilities that just shouldn’t exist. And this man bears a cryptic message: Mia’s in grave danger, though she doesn’t know it yet. She needs Nick’s help—now.

He finds himself in a race against time to unravel an impossible mystery and save the girl. And all that stands in his way is a probably terminal disease, a knife-wielding maniac and the laws of physics.

Challenge accepted.

The Ruby in the Smoke
Sally Lockhart 1
Audible, June 16, 2004

Melanie's Month in Review - October 2019
In search of clues to the mystery of her father's death, 16-year-old Sally Lockhart ventures into the shadowy underworld of Victorian London. Pursued by villains at every turn, the intrepid Sally finally uncovers two dark mysteries, and realizes that she herself is the key to both.

The Shadow in the North
Sally Lockhart 2
Audible, November 17, 2004

Melanie's Month in Review - October 2019
An elderly lady loses her money on an investment; a conjuror is pursued by thugs; and a clairvoyant mentions the name of the richest man in Europe and his mysterious company. Seemingly unconnected events set Sally Lockhart on the trail of an evil far more awful than she could ever imagine.

This thriller, by the author of The Ruby in the Smoke, evokes its 19th century setting and at the same time remains remarkably contemporary in the originality of its plot and larger-than-life characters. An unabridged reading of Philip Pullman's nerve-shattering thriller.

Promise of Darkness
Dark Court Rising 1
Lochaber Press Pty Ltd, September 17, 2019
eBook, 430 pages

Melanie's Month in Review - October 2019
Princess. Tribute. Sacrifice. Is she the one prophesied to unite two warring Fae courts? Or the one bound to destroy them?

In a realm ruled by magic, the ruthless Queen of Thorns is determined to destroy her nemesis, the cursed Prince of Evernight.

With war brewing between the bitter enemies, the prince forces Queen Adaia to uphold an ancient treaty: she will send one of her daughters to his court as a political hostage for three months.

The queen insists it’s the perfect opportunity for Princess Iskvien to end the war before it begins. But one look into Thiago’s smoldering eyes and Vi knows she’s no assassin.

The more secrets she uncovers about the prince and his court, the more she begins to question her mother’s motives.

Who is the true enemy? The dark prince who threatens her heart? Or the ruthless queen who will stop at nothing to destroy him?

And when the curse threatens to shatter both courts, is her heart strong enough to break it?

Join USA Today bestselling author, Bec McMaster, on a seductive journey through a mythic land, with a wicked prince who holds a thousand secrets, a princess determined to uncover the truth, and an evil queen who threatens to tear them apart. Download this epic fantasy filled with magic and breathtaking romance today!

Melanie's Month in Review - September 2019

Melanie's Month in Review - September 2019

Bye bye September the month of sunshine and rain.....lots and lots of rain. It has been one of those months that you get to spend the last days of summer sun reading outside and then others tucked up in bed reading while it chucks it down outside. All in all a good month to read some books.  So without further adieu what did I read?

Melanie's Month in Review - September 2019Sorry folks...its confession time. I have been very very tardy in posting my review of Sapphire Flames. I am ashamed to say that I got the eArc in May (sssshhhh don't tell Qwill) and I have yet to review it. I meant to do it in July right before it was published and forgot, I meant to post it August and again forgot. I am working on better late than never.

Book 4 of the Hidden Legacy series - Sapphire Flames stars Catalina Baylor - the younger sister of the heroine for the first three books. Catalina has a lot on her plate - she is a relatively new head of her house, the 3 year embargo on any other House messing with House Baylor is almost up and now her friend's mother and sister are murdered. Things get more complicated when the hunky Alessandro Sagredo turns up expectantly and turns Catalina's world upside down. A murder to solve, a nefarious organisation to bring down and a hot Italian to smooch. It's a hard day at the office at Baylor Investigations.

I liked Sapphire Flames but perhaps didn't love it like the others books of the series. I have read the book a few times between the e-Arc and the published version but I have never been able to put my finger on exactly what it is that didn't quite work for me. There is a lot of action and Catalina can definitely hold her own. The romance between Catalina and Alessandro is sweet but lacks some of the bite as the romance between Nevada and Connor. I am waiting for Caesar to come back.

Melanie's Month in Review - September 2019My audio book of choice for September was Philip Pullman's La Belle Sauvage which is book 1 in the Book of Dust series. The story is set approximately 20 years before the events of the Golden Compass. The hero of this story is the 11 year old Malcolm Polstead. Malcolm has a fairly normal life - helping out in his mom and dad's pub, helping the sisters in the local convent and hanging out with his daemon Asta in his beloved canoe 'La Belle Sauvage'.  When the little baby Lyra comes under the care of the sisters Malcolm can't comprehend how much his life is about to change. Danger is on ever corner and Malcolm will sacrifice everything to keep baby Lyra safe.

I LOVED La Belle Sauvage. I bought the audio version almost 2 years ago and didn't feel like listening to it until now. After the first sentence I was amazed that I hadn't listened to it earlier. I was gripped from start to finish. I can't imagine a better narrator than Michael Sheen. He really brings the young Malcolm and his daemon Asta to life. His west country accent is sublime! The story was very good but I am not sure if I would have been as gripped had I read the story rather than listen to it. If you were a fan of the first series and haven't had a chance to read La Belle Sauvage then get the audio version asap.

Melanie's Month in Review - September 2019My next two books are courtesy of NetGalley. I will start with The Return of the Incredible Exploding Man David Hutchinson. Alex Doolan is just a normal guy - his writing career has flatlined, he can't make his rent and things are looking bleak until the multi-billionaire Stanislaw Clayton turns up and offers him a deal he can't refuse - writing a book about Clayton's big research project - Sioux Creek Supercollidor. Clayton owns not just the research station but the whole town and everyone in it. Alex thought that was weird until weirder things things start to happen. Unfortunately for Alex he is right in the epi-center. Will he come out unscathed? Read it and find out.

This is a slow burn action story and Alex is the perfect anti-hero. Hutchinson teases the reader until the very end. Luckily this is a quick and easy read so you aren't kept trying to figure out what is going on for too long. Hutchinson takes a fairly mundane character in the form of failed writer Alex Doolan and after a series of bizarre events he turns into the reluctant hero of the story. As much as I liked the story the pace is almost too slow. Nearly 80% of the book is setting up the last 20% and there really isn't a lot of character development. I still enjoyed it but think the pacing needs some work.

Melanie's Month in Review - September 2019The final book I have to tell you about is by Charlaine Harris - An Easy Death which is the first in the Gunnie Rose series. The story is set in a post apocalyptic United States where magic is used but magic users are not trusted. Lizbeth Rose is a gun for hire with a fearsome reputation. When Lizbeth is  hired by two Russian wizards to find a minor magic user who just so happens to be a relative of Grigori Rasputin she doesn't realise this might just be her last job. A perilous journey across the lawless southwestern States for Lizbeth and her two clients. Her guns have never let her down and she is determined to get everyone through this alive.

An Easy Death is an apt title for this story as there is a lot of death and the killing starts from the first few pages and continues all the way through. There isn't a lot of character development as the story focuses on the action rather than providing Lizbeth's backstory or a history of what happened to result in the States being a fractured collection of mixed colonies. Harris likes to put her heroine's through a lot and that is definitely the case for Lizbeth.  She barely survives to the end of each chapter let alone to the end of the story. Did I like part 1 of Gunnie Rose?  hmmmmm I am not sure. I didn't dislike it but I didn't really warm to Lizbeth as a character.  This is one of the downsides of focusing on action rather than on the characters as it makes them rather one dimensional. I will continue to book 2 if I am able to source it from NetGalley but I don't think I would pay to read further in this series.

Well that is it for me and September and my September reads. Stay tuned for what I read in October. Book 2 of The Book of Dust series is out!  Hurrah!!!  One benefit of taking 2 years to read book means I don't have to wait that long. Until next time Happy Reading.

Sapphire Flames
A Hidden Legacy Novel 4
Avon, August 27, 2019
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

Melanie's Month in Review - September 2019
From #1 New York Times bestselling author Ilona Andrews comes an enthralling new trilogy set in the Hidden Legacy world, where magic means power, and family bloodlines are the new currency of society…

In a world where magic is the key to power and wealth, Catalina Baylor is a Prime, the highest rank of magic user, and the Head of her House. Catalina has always been afraid to use her unique powers, but when her friend’s mother and sister are murdered, Catalina risks her reputation and safety to unravel the mystery.

But behind the scenes powerful forces are at work, and one of them is Alessandro Sagredo, the Italian Prime who was once Catalina’s teenage crush. Dangerous and unpredictable, Alessandro’s true motives are unclear, but he’s drawn to Catalina like a moth to a flame.

To help her friend, Catalina must test the limits of her extraordinary powers, but doing so may cost her both her House–and her heart.

La Belle Sauvage
The Book of Dust 1
June 4, 2019
Trade Paperback, 480 pages
 eBook, October 19, 2017

Melanie's Month in Review - September 2019

Philip Pullman returns to the parallel world of His Dark Materials–soon to be an HBO original series starring Dafne Keen, Ruth Wilson, James McAvoy, and Lin-Manuel Miranda–to expand on the story of Lyra, “one of fantasy’s most indelible heroines” (The New York Times Magazine).

Don’t miss Volume II of The Book of Dust: The Secret Commonwealth

Malcolm Polstead and his daemon, Asta, are used to overhearing news and the occasional scandal at the inn run by his family. But during a winter of unceasing rain, Malcolm finds a mysterious object—and finds himself in grave danger.

Inside the object is a cryptic message about something called Dust; and it’s not long before Malcolm is approached by the spy for whom this message was actually intended. When she asks Malcolm to keep his eyes open, he begins to notice suspicious characters everywhere: the explorer Lord Asriel, clearly on the run; enforcement agents from the Magisterium; a gyptian named Coram with warnings just for Malcolm; and a beautiful woman with an evil monkey for a daemon. All are asking about the same thing: a girl—just a baby—named Lyra.

Lyra is at the center of a storm, and Malcolm will brave any peril, and make shocking sacrifices, to bring her safely through it.

“Too few things in our world are worth a seventeen-year wait: The Book of Dust is one of them.” —The Washington Post
“The book is full of wonder. . . . Truly thrilling.” —The New York Times
“People will love the first volume of Philip Pullman’s new trilogy with the same helpless vehemence that stole over them when The Golden Compass came out.” —Slate

The Return of the Incredible Exploding Man
Solaris, September 3, 2019
Trade Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

Melanie's Month in Review - September 2019
A thrilling science fiction masterwork of experimental disaster from the bestselling author of the Fractured Europe series The Guardian labelled ‘Magnificent’.

When Alex Dolan is hired by multibillionaire Stanislaw Clayton to write a book about the Sioux Crossing Supercollider, it seems like a dream job.

Then something goes wrong at the site. Very wrong.

After the incident, Dolan finds himself changed, and the only one who can stop the disaster from destroying us all.

An Easy Death
Gunnie Rose 1
Gallery / Saga Press, July 30, 2019
Mass Market Paperback, 336 pages
   Hardcover and eBook,October 2, 2018

Melanie's Month in Review - September 2019
“Immersive, involving, suspenseful, and intriguing, with a main character you’ll love.” —Lee Child, #1 internationally bestselling author of the Jack Reacher novels

“When a master of her craft offers to tell you a story, let her. The results are dazzling.” —Seanan McGuire, New York Times bestselling author of the Alex, Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Award-winning Wayward Children series.

The beloved #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Sookie Stackhouse series, the inspiration for HBO’s True Blood, and the Midnight Crossroad trilogy adapted for NBC’s Midnight, Texas, has written a taut new thriller—the first in the Gunnie Rose series—centered on a young gunslinging mercenary, Lizbeth Rose.

Set in a fractured United States, in the southwestern country now known as Texoma. A world where magic is acknowledged but mistrusted, especially by a young gunslinger named Lizbeth Rose. Battered by a run across the border to Mexico Lizbeth Rose takes a job offer from a pair of Russian wizards to be their local guide and gunnie. For the wizards, Gunnie Rose has already acquired a fearsome reputation and they’re at a desperate crossroad, even if they won’t admit it. They’re searching through the small border towns near Mexico, trying to locate a low-level magic practitioner, Oleg Karkarov. The wizards believe Oleg is a direct descendant of Grigori Rasputin, and that Oleg’s blood can save the young tsar’s life.

As the trio journey through an altered America, shattered into several countries by the assassination of Franklin Roosevelt and the Great Depression, they’re set on by enemies. It’s clear that a powerful force does not want them to succeed in their mission. Lizbeth Rose is a gunnie who has never failed a client, but her oath will test all of her skills and resolve to get them all out alive.
Melanie's Top Reads of 2019Melanie's Month in Review - November 2019Melanie's Month in Review - October 2019Melanie's Month in Review - September 2019

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