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The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

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 Month in Review - October 2019Melanie's Month in Review - September 2019

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