A Blackbird in Amber (Blackbird #3) by Freda Warrington

A Blackbird in Amber Cover

A Blackbird in Amber Blurb

The terrible Serpent M’gulfn has been destroyed, but Earth’s future is in peril. Its death has unleashed a chaotic power that may prove more dangerous than the Serpent itself.

Journeying to Gorethria comes Melkavesh, daughter of Ashurek and Silvren, determined to harness the new power of sorcery for good. But can she resist the temptation to claim her birthright – the dark throne renounced by Ashurek?

A ruthless usurper, Xaedrek, has already seized Gorethria’s throne and is working his own warped form of sorcery to restore the evil empire. To save the Earth, Melkavesh must defeat him but she has reckoned without Xaedrek’s seductive charm.

My Reviews of other Books in the Series

A Blackbird in Silver (Blackbird #1)

A Blackbird in Darkness (Blackbird #2)

My Review of A Blackbird in Amber

A Blackbird in AmberA Blackbird in Amber by Freda Warrington
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The third in the Blackbird series jumps 25 years into the future after the events of the first two books. It follows Ashurek and Silvren’s daughter Mellorn as she returns to Earth to aid the birth of sorcery. But the Gorethrian Empire has used warped demon sorcery to recover its strength and has returned to invading and enslaving other nations.

My favourite thing about the Blackbird series is the wonderful and well-written cast of characters who have complex relationships and motivations. Main character Mellorn / Melkavesh is a sorceress who sets out with the aim of creating a sorcery school on Earth. Strong willed and charismatic she is a natural leader and draws people to herself.

But she is swayed by her own ego and under the guise of stopping the Gorethrians conquest of other nations, she starts to get swept away with the idea of leading an army and overthrowing the Gorethrian ruler.

I really enjoyed the story. It’s well paced and interesting, and makes sense in the context of the original books – it doesn’t feel tacked on for the sake of continuing the series. I also love the lush descriptions of the world. They brought it to life for me and I couldn’t stop reading. I’m excited to read the next one!

A Blackbird in Amber
Blackbird
Freda Warrington
Fantasy
1988
Paperback
437

Nights of Blood Wine (Blood Wine, #4.5) by Freda Warrington

Nights of Blood Wine Cover

Nights of Blood Wine Blurb

Enter the spellbinding worlds of Freda Warrington. Fifteen tales of horror and darkness, taking the reader deeper into the vampiric and the unknown.

Warrington’s vampires haunt the borderlands of excess, and you can find them here in ten stories set in her popular Blood Wine series of novels. Then there are five further tales of fantasy and horror as Warrington takes you further into the worlds of imagination. Step gently, as you may not leave untouched!

‘The Blood Wine books are addictive, thrilling reads that are impossible to put down and they definitely deserve more attention.’ Worldhopping.net

‘A cross between Anne Rice and more edgy modern paranormal romances, only with Freda Warrington’s incredible voice … This author truly has a gift for storytelling.’ Not Your Ordinary Book Banter

My review of Nights of Blood Wine

Nights of Blood Wine (Blood Wine, #4.5)Nights of Blood Wine by Freda Warrington
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
It makes a change to read some vampire stories that are not cheesy and overwhelmed by romance.

My sister kept telling me about the Blood Wine series, that it’s the best vampire series she’s ever read. Finally, I listened and decided to start with this newly released short story collection.

The first, and largest, part of the collection is made up of stories that are based in the Blood Wine universe, the second part is stories based on the Elfland series, and there is an extra Dracula story added to the mix too.

I haven’t read any of the books (yet), but it didn’t stop me understanding or enjoying these short stories.

It’s a very sophisticated, very adult collection of stories. They’re mostly told from women’s perspectives and are stories about women. Love and sex are part of a lot of them, but it’s not the focus. This is about as far from Twilight as it’s possible to get.

Freda Warrington is a wonderful writer; I can’t understand why she’s not more widely known. Her stories are subtle and complex and draw you in without you noticing it. Suddenly you’ll realise you’re hooked and need to devour everything she’s ever written.

Her writing is captivating, her descriptions are almost lyrical and bring the rich worlds to life. Her characters are complex, otherworldly and yet somehow also relatable.

If you like vampire stories even a little bit, then do yourself a favour and pick up a copy of this.

Nights of Blood Wine
Blood Wine
Freda Warrington
Fantasy
Telos
March 31st 2017
Paperback
228

The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley

The Stars are Legion

The Stars are Legion Blurb

Somewhere on the outer rim of the universe, a mass of decaying world-ships known as the Legion is travelling in the seams between the stars. For generations, a war for control of the Legion has been waged, with no clear resolution.  As worlds continue to die, a desperate plan is put into motion.

Zan wakes with no memory, prisoner of a people who say they are her family. She is told she is their salvation – the only person capable of boarding the Mokshi, a world-ship with the power to leave the Legion. But Zan’s new family is not the only one desperate to gain control of the prized ship. Zan finds that she must choose sides in a genocidal campaign that will take her from the edges of the Legion’s gravity well to the very belly of the world.

Zan will soon learn that she carries the seeds of the Legion’s destruction – and its possible salvation. But can she and her ragtag band of followers survive the horrors of the Legion and its people long enough to deliver it?

My Review of The Stars are Legion

The Stars Are LegionThe Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I reviewed this over on my old blog when I first read it, but it’s such an original and inventive sci-fi book that I want to spread the word as much as possible!

Zan wakes up injured and with amnesia. She does not know who or where she is. The world to her, and to us, seems to be half mad. We are swept along with Zan and told as little as she is as she tries to piece together who she is.

Zan is on one of many worlds / spaceships that are actually living creatures. The walls and the floors are spongy, and they move between levels by using the umbilical cord. They have to cut open the skin to get outside! The further into the middle you go the more visceral and sticky the world gets.

These worlds, collectively known as the Legion, are stuck in their orbit around the false sun. They are slowly dying. Cancer eats away at them, and with each new generation the inhabitants are losing their knowledge on what they are and where they came from. They can barely control them and don’t know what half the equipment on them does.

The different worlds are in conflict with each other, fighting for resources, each of them salvaging what they can to heal their own worlds at the expense of the others.

One world, the Mokshi, has managed to leave it’s orbit and now everyone wants to board it and control it, to find out how it does it and hopefully create a new future for themselves.

The world building here is impressive and original. It reminds me of Iain M Banks space opera stories in its scope. Hurley creates the same sort of atmosphere and strangeness in her unique universe.

The characters are interesting if not always likeable, with realistic emotions and believable actions. Zan travels to the centre of the world and the people she picks up along the way are from different cultures with different life experiences, and each has their own distinct personality.

In the middle of the book, when Zan reaches the centre of the world it suddenly becomes a blend of sci-fi / horror, before bringing in elements of fantasy. I thought this was very well done, it didn’t feel out of place to me. I loved the sci-fi side, and the space battles, but this journey through the centre of the world was my favourite part of the book. Hurley’s imagination ran wild here, and there are some very inventive ideas as we learn more about what the world is and the different social and cultural groups in it.

As Zan struggles through the world trying to make sense of it and piece herself back together Hurley doesn’t shy away from showing us the darker side of humanity. There is love in this world, but also betrayal, fear, cowardice and prejudice as we see the things people are capable of doing to others and to themselves to get what they want.

There is a hopeless feel at times, the world is dying, the leaders rule by fear, and even if Zan gets back her memory where can she go from there? But just as it starts getting overwhelming for me Hurley shakes it all up again and reminds us there are good things in people too, when they are given the chance to show them.

There are answers given eventually, but not all of them are concrete ones. Some things are hinted at but left for you to fill in the gaps yourself. It might be very confusing at first but stick with it because Hurley’s world is worth the effort of getting to know!

I received a free copy from the publisher in return for an honest review.

The Stars Are Legion
Kameron Hurley
Sci-Fi

All Good Things (The Split Worlds #5) by Emma Newman

All Good Things Cover

When the mysterious sorceress, Bea, offers her a chance to earn true freedom, Cathy makes a deal with her. But can she and Sam work out the best way to navigate Bea’s plans for the future without becoming another of her victims?

Amidst death, deceit, and the struggle for freedom, friendships are tested, families are destroyed and heroes are forged as the battle to control the Split Worlds rages on to its climatic conclusion.

All Good Things (The Split Worlds, #5)All Good Things by Emma Newman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was so happy to get my hands on an ARC of All Good Things! I’m a big fan of this series, I’ve been avidly following Cathy’s journey through the first four books and I was excited to see how the story would conclude.

Cathy has been on a massive journey. From the scared young woman in the first book to the Duchess of Londinium trying to effect social change, she has now grown into a true leader, Princess Leia rebel style.

For the first few books, Cathy was mainly ineffective, complaining but not actually doing anything. In the last two books she has made grown in confidence, started caring about other people, and made some real changes, but what she does here is just brilliant. I love the way this book ended.

The side stories were neatly wrapped up too. Though I do feel like there was a lot of wrapping up in this book, and at times a lot of the stories felt rushed. Will and the Fae princess, for example, seemed to be a bit crammed in.

I’m not happy about what happened with Lucy. She has been such a strong character through the series and very supportive of Cathy, and I don’t like the way she was treated at the end.

Max and the gargoyle have been my favourite characters by far. I’d love to see some more of them, I feel like Cathy’s story might be done but those two have a lot of work to do now.

This has been one of my favourite series and I’m sad to see it end, but I’m also excited to see what Emma Newman does next.

I received a free copy from the publisher in return for an honest review.

All Good Things
The Split Worlds
Emma Newman
Fantasy
June 6th 2017
350

The Great Passage by Shion Miura

The Great Passage Cover

The Great Passage Blurb

A charmingly warm and hopeful story of love, friendship, and the power of human connection. Award-winning Japanese author Shion Miura’s novel is a reminder that a life dedicated to passion is a life well lived.

Inspired as a boy by the multiple meanings to be found for a single word in the dictionary, Kohei Araki is devoted to the notion that a dictionary is a boat to carry us across the sea of words. But after thirty-seven years creating them at Gembu Books, it’s time for him to retire and find his replacement.

He discovers a kindred spirit in Mitsuya Majime—a young, dishevelled square peg with a penchant for collecting antiquarian books and a background in linguistics—whom he swipes from his company’s sales department.

Led by his new mentor and joined by an energetic, if reluctant, new recruit and an elder linguistics scholar, Majime is tasked with a career-defining accomplishment: completing The Great Passage, a comprehensive 2,900-page tome of the Japanese language. On his journey, Majime discovers friendship, romance, and an incredible dedication to his work, inspired by the bond that connects us all: words.

My Review of The Great Passage

The Great PassageThe Great Passage by Shion Miura
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

How can a book about a small department at a publishing house creating a dictionary be so wonderful?

Wrapped up in the main story about the creation of the dictionary there are three different stories about the people in the dictionary department. One is about a man who learns to connect with people, one is a woman who learns not to judge others, and the other is about a man who learns that it’s ok to show that you care about things.

The translator has done a great job. There is a lot of discussion about the meaning and origin of words and I’m impressed by how these have been translated from the original Japanese to still make sense in English. A couple of times I had to re-read paragraphs a few times to follow the meanings, but the majority of them were easy to follow.

The geeky side of me enjoyed the bits about describing words and the look at how a dictionary is created. The three stories with their quirky characters provide a warm, human element that I could connect with.

I enjoyed this a lot more than I expected to. It made me smile while I was reading it and even though the ending has some sad moments it left me happier and I’m glad I took a chance on it.

Also, I love the cover!

The Great Passage
Shion Miura, Juliet Winters Carpenter (Translation)
Fiction
June 1st 2017
222

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Half of a Yellow Sun

Half of a Yellow Sun Blurb

With effortless grace, celebrated author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie illuminates a seminal moment in modern African history: Biafra’s impassioned struggle to establish an independent republic in southeastern Nigeria during the late 1960s. We experience this tumultuous decade alongside five unforgettable characters: Ugwu, a thirteen-year-old houseboy who works for Odenigbo, a university professor full of revolutionary zeal; Olanna, the professor’s beautiful young mistress who has abandoned her life in Lagos for a dusty town and her lover’s charm; and Richard, a shy young Englishman infatuated with Olanna’s willful twin sister Kainene. Half of a Yellow Sun is a tremendously evocative novel of the promise, hope, and disappointment of the Biafran war.

My review of Half of a Yellow Sun

Half of a Yellow SunHalf of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Half a Yellow Sun tells the story of Biafra, a State that existed for three years in the sixties during a civil war in Nigeria.

Three different narrators show us the human side of war and the effects it has on ordinary people.

It took me a long time to warm up to the characters and to start to care what happened to them. They do things that aren’t nice, or kind a lot of the time. We see their weaknesses and their selfish behaviour is made very obvious. Basically, they are very human and very realistic, and it was hard for me to remember that they are made up characters and not actually real people.

In the Q&A in the back of the copy I have the author says that she does not like omniscient narrators, that she does not want to bore us with their every thought. What we get then is almost fragments out of the lives of the narrators, and they do things that they don’t seem to fully understand themselves. It reminds me of the way Doris Lessing writes, just with more of an actual story in there too.

This is not the sort of book I normally read, but I’m glad I gave it a go. I was worried it might be a bit dry, but it’s really not. The subject matter means it’s not an easy read, but it is very readable, very interesting, and always stays sensitive.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a gifted storyteller and I’ll be looking out for more of her work.

View all my reviews

Half of a Yellow Sun
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Fiction
January 1st 2007
448

The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian

The Martian Blurb

A mission to Mars.

A freak accident.

One man’s struggle to survive.

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate the planet while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded on Mars’ surface, completely alone, with no way to signal Earth that he’s alive. And even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone years before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, Mark won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark’s not ready to quit. Armed with nothing but his ingenuity and his engineering skills—and a gallows sense of humor that proves to be his greatest source of strength–he embarks on a dogged quest to stay alive, using his botany expertise to grow food and even hatching a mad plan to contact NASA back on Earth.

As he overcomes one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next, Mark begins to let himself believe he might make it off the planet alive.

But Mars has plenty of surprises in store for him yet.

My Review of The Martian

The MartianThe Martian by Andy Weir
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a proper sci-fi book, it reminds me of the best of 50’s sci-fi. I loved all the maths and the science and watching Mark Watney work out how to stay alive.

Watney’s voice was funny (very funny!) and compelling. I felt like I was there with him on Mars, and his science explanations were accessible enough that I could follow what he was doing and why.

I loved the insight into all the NASA equipment, and what they would take with them on a trip to Mars. I almost feel now like I know what it would be like to be an astronaut.

I wasn’t keen on the parts set on Earth. I liked the characters, but for me these parts were overdone and tried too hard to play with my emotions. There was a bit too much of how the whole world pulls together to save one man. Whatever. I get why we had to see what they were doing on Earth to try to save him, and I did like the plans they came up with, but I don’t need to be shown so obviously where I should find something moving.

But the rest of it I loved, even the 70’s disco soundtrack!

The Martian
Andy Weir
Sci-Fi
August 18th 2015
435

Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler

Fledgling

Fledgling Blurb

Fledgling, Octavia Butler’s new novel after a seven year break, is the story of an apparently young, amnesiac girl whose alarmingly inhuman needs and abilities lead her to a startling conclusion: She is in fact a genetically modified, 53-year-old vampire. Forced to discover what she can about her stolen former life, she must at the same time learn who wanted – and still wants – to destroy her and those she cares for and how she can save herself. Fledgling is a captivating novel that tests the limits of “otherness” and questions what it means to be truly human.

My Review of Fledgling

FledglingFledgling by Octavia E. Butler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Shori looks like a normal human child but is actually a 53-year-old Ina, a vampire. The story is told through her eyes after she loses her memory and cannot remember who or what she is.

Shori is found and cared for by a human, but as they slowly realise what she is Shori starts trying to find her Ina family. This gives us as the reader a unique insight into the vampire community, Shori is one of them, but has to relearn everything about them, and we learn with her.

The Ina create strong families and communities. As an Ina Shori needs her human symbionts, she needs their closeness and their support.
I’m not 100% sure how I feel about the communal / shared partner way of living (I don’t like people, and sharing my life with one person is about as much as I can stand) but I like the different approach to vampire stories. It shows vampires as being capable of kindness and love for humans.

Shori has an intelligent, cold, analytical style which I enjoyed reading, and the whole story is quite serious, with no daftness in it.It makes a nice change from the normal over the top emotional vampire silliness!

I loved it at first, and the story built up a lot of momentum but then it kinda petered out towards the conclusion where it became quite slow.

It became what I felt was a discussion of race, prejudice, and moral values, which I found very interesting and thought-provoking, and the slower pace helped to digest it all.

This is one of the best vampire stories I’ve read and I’m excited about reading more of Octavia Butler’s books!

Fledgling
Octavia E. Butler
Fantasy
January 2nd 2007
320

The Circle (Engelsfors #1) by Mats Strandberg

The Circle

The Circle Blurb

One night, when a strange red moon fills the sky, six school girls find themselves in an abandoned theme park, drawn there by a mysterious force. A student has just been found dead. Everyone suspects suicide. Everyone – except them.

In that derelict fairground an ancient prophecy is revealed. They are The Chosen Ones, a group of witches, bound together by a power, one which could destroy them all. But they soon learn that despite their differences they need each other in order to master the forces that have been awakened within them.

High school is now a matter of life and death. Because the killing has only just begun

My review of The Circle

The Circle (Hammer)The Circle by Mats Strandberg translated by Sara Bergmark Elfgren
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Circle is a Swedish Young Adult novel. Set in the small town of Engelsfor in Sweden, The Circle follows six teenagers at the local high school that find out they have magic powers.

For the first few chapters I was a little confused by all the different characters as the viewpoint jumps between the girls, but by the middle of the book, I had them sorted. They are all very different and there is enough character development to start getting to know each of them.

Not all of the girls were very likeable and they didn’t get on with each other, this conflict and the regular action keeps the book moving nicely.

There wasn’t enough use of their magic powers for me though, for most of the book the girls struggled to understand what they were and had no real idea how to use them. It might be more realistic this way, but I want to see more magic!

It’s long for a young adult book, but it all wraps up nicely at the end, no cliffhangers here! So even though there are sequels this can be read as a one off.

I will be reading the next book though, I want to see them getting the hang of their magic powers and using them a bit more.

The Circle
Mats Strandberg
Young Adult Fantasy
June 7th 2012

Hello, Moto by Nnedi Okorafor

hello moto

There is witchcraft in science and a science to witchcraft. Both will conspire against you eventually.

My Review of Hello, Moto

In Hello, Moto, technology and magic merge into one very interesting short story.

Philo had been in Jos when the riots happened. I knew it was her and her wig. A technology I had created. Neurotransmitters, mobile phones, incantation, and hypnosis- even I knew my creation was genius. But all it sparked in the North was death and mayhem.

It left me with more questions than answers and it’s a massive cliffhanger ending, but I feel like that’s a good thing.

You definitely need to use your own imagination when you’re reading this.

Read for free at Tor.com

Hello, Moto
Nnedi Okorafor
Fantasy
Online Short Story