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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.

Review: The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden


Winter of the Witch
Author:  Katherine Arden
Series:  Winternight Trilogy 3
Publisher:  Del Rey, October 1, 2019
Format:  Trade Paperback, 400 pages
Format:  Hardcover, Audiobook, and eBook, January 8, 2019
List Price:  US$17.00 (print); US$13.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9781101886014 (print); 9781101886007 (eBook)

Review: The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden
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.



Melanie's Review

The Winter of the Witch, Arden's final instalment of her Winternight Trilogy, starts immediately after the dramatic events of book 2 - The Girl in the Tower. The residents of Moscow have woken up to the devastation left by a massive fire. Parts of the city are in ruins and friends and family are dead or homeless. They are looking for answers but more importantly for someone to blame. Unfortunately, Vasya is in the cross hairs as she no longer has the protection of the Grand Prince who is angry and no longer trusts her or her brother, the monk Alexander. Without his support Vasya is left vulnerable and on her own. Even more dangerous than the mobs looking for revenge is Father Konstantin. He is determined to destroy Vasya and teams up with a demon who wants revenge and to create chaos wherever he goes. With all of Russia on the brink of war and desperate to protect those she loves Vasya embarks on a journey to find the one person who can help her, the Winter King. Time is running out for Vasya to save her family and the magical world she has grown to love.

Arden keeps the pressure on Vasya throughout this novel and the suspense is high from the very start through to the very end of the story. She doesn't do this by dragging her heroine through countless high action scenes like many authors like to do. Instead the story is a clever balance of action, character development and strategically placed reveals or uncovering of secrets. Arden has the unique ability to create the sense that you are reading folklore rather than new fantasy fiction. This adds another element to the enjoyment of this instalment and the series as a whole.

Vasya is a great character and throughout the series the reader has the opportunity to see her grow and evolve. It's hard to believe she is only in her late teens in the final book but give the time period that was probably middle age. She certainly acts like someone far older and more mature than a 17 year old. I love her relationship with the magical characters she was trying to save, especially the various domovoy who protect the home and hearth. Through Vasya, the readers learns how the spread of Christianity started to cause the magical creatures and pagan gods to weaken and disappear. This is one of the causes the rift between Vasya and her brother who is a monk as she has magical abilities that conflict with his Christian beliefs. This is also the reason why Father Konstantin hates her so.

Through her travels Vasya meets many of the magical creatures that make up Russian folklore. Arden uses real historic events and people as the basis of the main plot of this story which again, gives the impression you are reading something other than fantasy fiction.

I actually listened to the audio version The Winter of the Witch and if you have this opportunity available to you I highly recommend it. The story is narrated by Kathleen Gati and she does an excellent job of bringing Vasya to life. Unlike some narrators, Gati doesn't try to sound like a man when reading the dialogue of male characters which I much prefer. Keeping the narration in one tone of voice reinforces the impression that this is folklore, a story retold from one generation to the next.

I have thoroughly enjoyed this series and The Winter of the Witch is a fantastic ending to Vasya's story. There isn't anything I would change in this instalment. Great book, great series but start with book 1 - The Bear and the Nightingale.

Melanie's Week in Review - February 25, 2018


Melanie's Week in Review - February 25, 2018


Fear not gentle reader, I am back with my Week in Review :)  I thought I would give you a short break from my WIR and share two of my SPFBO 2017 reviews. I hope you enjoyed them. Keep your eye on the blog for reviews from my fellow Qwillery reviewers on what they thought of the books they read for the competition.

I had a little pooch at NetGalley this week and was surprised by two books I had read last year but hadn't yet reviewed.  Lately books have been available months before their publish date and then I get all excited about reading them. This time I had convinced myself that I had actually posted a review here but after some checking it transpired I hadn't left you a review so check out what I read.


Melanie's Week in Review - February 25, 2018
First up is The Queen of All Crows by Rod Duncan which is the first instalment of The Map of Unknown Things, published by Angry Robot on January 2nd. This series is set in the same world as Duncan's The Fall of the Gas-lit Empire series with Elizabeth Barnabus back in her role of spy but this time with the dreaded Patent Office. When airships start to disappear, along with someone close to Elizabeth, she decides to take action and goes undercover, again as a man. As the science officer on a whaler far out to sea Elizabeth is desperate to find out what has happened and more importantly, who is responsible. Elizabeth finds herself in the middle of a mystery and in more danger than anything the Patent Office could do to her. It will take every ounce of her ingenuity and bravery to discover what has happened and survive long enough to report back.

I loved Duncan's The Fall of the Gas-lit Empire series and thought that Elizabeth was a complex, gutsy heroine. Normally, I am a bit nervous when an author creates a new series for one their characters as it usually means they don't want to let go and new books usually aren't as good. I prefer a shorter, excellent series than a long mediocre, drawn out one. However, Duncan doesn't disappoint and this is an excellent start to what I feel is going to be a compelling series. At the beginning of the story I had pretty much guessed what was going to happen, but midway through every thing changed and I couldn't really guess what was going to become of Elizabeth. This is a difficult book to review because I don't want to give anything away. I want you to discover what happens to Elizabeth on your own because it is such a tasty tale. I have read too many reviews that spell everything out and basically rewrite the book so I don't want to do that here. What I can say is that Duncan fleshes out Elizabeth even more and the new landscape in which this story is set is rich and bleak in equal measure. If I had to sum up this story I would describe it as a story of the power of friendship. Cruel, beautiful, warm, and chillingly lonely. It's all these things and a great mystery as well. If you haven't read the original series don't miss out and then join Elizabeth in The Queen of All Crows.


Melanie's Week in Review - February 25, 2018
The second book I would like to tell you about is The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden. This is the second in her Winternight Trilogy and follows not long after the events of book 1 - The Bear and the Nightingale. Vasya is on the run. She has been cast out of her village following the death of her father and she faces either being married off  - to become a girl in a tower - or joining a convent. Neither option appeals to her so when the opportunity presents itself she disguises herself as a boy and joins the Grand Prince of Moscow's retinue. When a mysterious and possibly magical force threatens the kingdom Vasya risks everything, including her freedom, to save the Prince, her family and her kingdom.

I can't believe that it is less than a year from the time that Arden released her debut The Bear and the Nightingale (check out my review here). Book 2 does not disappoint. In fact Arden has built upon the strengths of these characters and takes this from a mere fairy tale into some more like folklore. While this is fiction Arden has created characters who are credible, who make you believe they were actually alive, centuries ago. I have to admit I did spend a lot of the story thinking to myself  'poor Vasya' as things seem to go from bad to worse for our teenage heroine. She is forced to grow up quickly but at the same time stays innocent from how cruel the world can really be.

Again, this is another book that I could recount half the plot for you in this review but why would I ruin the journey that you need to take? Join Vasya on her journey of self discovery. Well done Arden, another great book. I can hardly wait for the final in this trilogy, The Winter of the Witch.


That is it for me this week. Apologies for not getting these reviews to you sooner. Better late than never! Until next time Happy Reading.





The Queen of All Crows
The Map of Unknown Things 1
Angry Robot Books, January 2, 2018
Trade Paperback and eBook, 352 pages

Melanie's Week in Review - February 25, 2018
Only one woman can stop the world from descending into endless war, in the thrilling new series in the world of the Gas-Lit Empire
The year is 2012 but it might as well be the Victorian age. The nations of the world are overseen by the International Patent Office, and its ruthless stranglehold on technology.

When airships start disappearing in the middle of the Atlantic, the Patent Office is desperate to discover what has happened. Forbidden to operate beyond the territorial waters of member nations, they send spies to investigate in secret.

One of those spies is Elizabeth Barnabus. She must overcome her dislike of the machinations of her employers, disguise herself as a man, and take to the sea in search of the floating nation of pirates who threaten the world order.

File Under: Fantasy [ A Lost Airship | On the Sargasso | Stowaway Bay | The Crow Queen ]





The Girl in the Tower
Winternight Trilogy 2
Del Rey, December 5, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 384 pages

Melanie's Week in Review - February 25, 2018
A remarkable young woman blazes her own trail, from the backwoods of Russia to the court of Moscow, in the exhilarating sequel to Katherine Arden’s bestselling debut novel, The Bear and the Nightingale.

Katherine Arden’s enchanting first novel introduced readers to an irresistible heroine. Vasilisa has grown up at the edge of a Russian wilderness, where snowdrifts reach the eaves of her family’s wooden house and there is truth in the fairy tales told around the fire. Vasilisa’s gift for seeing what others do not won her the attention of Morozko—Frost, the winter demon from the stories—and together they saved her people from destruction. But Frost’s aid comes at a cost, and her people have condemned her as a witch.

Now Vasilisa faces an impossible choice. Driven from her home by frightened villagers, the only options left for her are marriage or the convent. She cannot bring herself to accept either fate and instead chooses adventure, dressing herself as a boy and setting off astride her magnificent stallion Solovey.

But after Vasilisa prevails in a skirmish with bandits, everything changes. The Grand Prince of Moscow anoints her a hero for her exploits, and she is reunited with her beloved sister and brother, who are now part of the Grand Prince’s inner circle. She dares not reveal to the court that she is a girl, for if her deception were discovered it would have terrible consequences for herself and her family. Before she can untangle herself from Moscow’s intrigues—and as Frost provides counsel that may or may not be trustworthy—she will also confront an even graver threat lying in wait for all of Moscow itself.
Melanie's Month in Review - August 2019Review: The Winter of the Witch by Katherine ArdenMelanie's Week in Review - February 25, 2018

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