Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory

Posted On 18 July 2017

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spoon1I loved this book, it’s my first by this author but on the strength of this one I’m keen to go and check out more of his work.  To be honest I wasn’t sure if this would be for me, it doesn’t really sound like there’s going to be much fantasy and I must admit that when I started the book it reads like a contemporary family saga, and yet there is so much more to this as I soon found out.  Within the first few pages I was intrigued by the Telemachus family, they worked their magic on me and pretty soon I was tearing through the pages desperate to know what came next.  A clever story, full of emotion,  great characterisation and laugh out loud moments. Imagine the dysfunctional Royal Tenenbaums, but with psychic abilities thrown into the mix, meets the Sopranos.  Magic, the mob, a sprinkling of love and a twisting over arching storyline that will keep you gripped. What’s not to love?

The Telemachus family have psychic abilities.  For a brief spell during the 1970s they looked set to achieve fame as the whole family appeared on tv, each using their abilities for a different act to wow the audience.  Unfortunately things didn’t quite pan out and the family retreated home in shame and this incident, followed fairly soon afterwards by family loss, left them all wanting little more than to live normal lives.  Now jump forwards approximately 20 years and witness the family as they all struggle with their own problems and witness the absurdly crazy events as they spiral further and further into the genius that makes up the grand finale of this story.

This is a story that jumps back to the past, allowing plot lines of espionage and the Cold War to creep in, but also jumps forward into the future (depending on whose storyline you’re currently reading) so that you can glimpse intriguing snippets of what is yet to come.  I was so impressed, in fact more than impressed, staggered at the way this story comes together. There are so many plates spinning here that I was on the edge of my seat waiting for the inevitable crash, which, unbelievably, never came.  This truly is a masterfully told story and on top of that its tense with anticipation, I was reading and alternately shaking my head or nodding or laughing or just plain wanting to jump to the conclusion to kill the suspense!

What really shines for me in this story are the characters.  All of them are so well rounded.  You know that you’re in love with a character when you find yourself wishing you could meet them or be part of what they’ve got going on and as crazy as the Telemachus family is I found that to be the case here, and not just with one character but them all.  The father is Teddy.  He’s the one exception to the rule as he has no psychic ability at all.  He’s a conman, even down to his made up Greek heritage and yet he manages to marry the woman of his dreams after he was wowed by her at their first meeting.  Call it love at first sight if you will.  Maureen is probably one of the world’s greatest psychics and all of her children inherited some form of ability from her.  Irene is the human lie detector, Frankie can move objects and Buddy can predict the future. Sounds almost too good to be true and yet at the start of the story their strange abilities have not prevented them from free falling into dire straits.  Irene is now bringing up her son Matty alone, cash problems have forced her to return to the family home and she’s working long hours, in a job that she doesn’t enjoy, for minimum pay.  Frankie’s own company has gone bust.  He’s working hard but he has massive debts and has found himself in over his head with the mob.  And Buddy, well, he seems to have retreated into his own world, he very rarely talks and is constantly working on ‘projects’ of his own that are unfathomable to everyone else.  Now add in the next generation and all their mixed emotions, especially the teenagers and their own budding talents that are just becoming apparent.  Between them they gave me moments of reflection a lot of entertainment, a number of laughs at the sagas of everyday life and genuine feelings for this oddball family.

I don’t really want to say too much more.  I really liked that this is a standalone novel.  I love that it has a storyline that seems to be playing second fiddle until it becomes apparent that it’s the key to the whole thing and I think there’s almost a message here about being careful what you wish for.  The Telemachus family are all talented but their own special abilities have not led them to be happy, and in a world where people are constantly wishing to be the next supernatural, immortal or magical character that they read about I found this refreshingly different.

I’m probably not doing this book credit so I’ll finish by saying, if you’re reading this review and it hasn’t convinced you to pick this up, then ignore everything I’ve said and pick it up anyway.  I simply can’t imagine anyone not enjoying this book and I want everyone to give it a shot.

I received a copy from the publisher through Netgalley, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

Godblind by Anna Stephens

Posted On 17 July 2017

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godblindGodblind is Anna Stephens debut novel.  Set in a brutal world this is not a story for the faint hearted and I would start by saying that it definitely will not be a book for all.  I have mixed feelings for the book and I confess that my thoughts have been difficult to pin down so this review may ramble.

In terms of the plot.  Basically, we have a swathe of people, the Mireces, formally of Rilpor, who have been cast out of the city for their worship of the Red Gods.  They live in the mountains and although there is a tentative peace their thoughts of resurrecting their Gods from beyond the Veil is never far from their thoughts and with a blood thirsty Priestess goading them into action and a new ambitious Warlord with plans of making a name for himself the threat of imminent war looms.

Meanwhile, in the City of Rilpor, unrest stirs.  Ruled by a King who is slowly descending into madness following the murder of his wife the City is vulnerable.  They’ve become complacent and seem to lack knowledge about the real threat that they face.

The catalyst to the story is a young woman, a slave of the Mireces who finally takes drastic action and escapes into the mountains where she is eventually picked up by a ranger patrolling the borders.  The Wolves, who take her in have little idea of the danger she really poses.

So, Godblind is a story with multiple POVs.  I enjoy stories told in this style although I admit that there are quite a lot here and for a while the short chapters really made it difficult for me to get a grip of them all.  I think overall there were possibly 8/9 different characters so I’m not going to elaborate on them all here.  Personally, I would have liked to have spent a little time with some of these characters, the main ones in particular, to get a better feel for them before moving on to the next one. I understand that the author was probably going for a fast pace but in a way I felt this led to the characters suffering from a lack of individuality.  They all eventually became distinct for me but I felt that this was something I had to really think about and even now I haven’t developed any strong attachments other than to a fairly minor character called Gilda who really pleasantly surprised me.

The world building is also a little light to be honest but I think in a book of this scope with so much action and such a lot of character shifts it’s difficult to really elaborate too much.

In terms of strengths.  Anna Stephens can certainly write.  This story bolts out of the stalls and pretty much doesn’t come up for breath all through.  Her writing is vivid and she has a real talent for painting action scenes and although this first in series may suffer a little bit from over ambition there is a distinct promise of bigger and better things to come.

Criticisms.  Well, this is probably where the rambling begins. I enjoyed this but at the same time I definitely felt irritated. There’s a lot of violence contained in this book and whilst that’s something that you expect from this type of story I couldn’t help feeling that the ‘shock’ factor was being strived for a little too hard.  I confess that I’m becoming a little exasperated by the constant need to paint books in blood and viscera in order to provoke a reaction from readers.  I have an excellent imagination and I don’t need everything placing in front of me and in fact sometimes I would like this to be tempered with something that prevents the story becoming too bleak and full of despair.  This is clearly a personal thing but I like a spattering of humour to accompany the spatters of blood and I think that this is missing here.  The other problem I had was the nagging question throughout of why anyone would follow the Red Gods in the first place.  To do so seems to mean you have no love for life or even desire to remain alive as you constantly face numerous threats, such as being used for war fodder or for the constant, and randomly chosen, blood sacrifices that the Gods (or their priestess) seem to demand.

Now, that probably all sounds overly negative, which isn’t my intention.  This is an impressive debut but I hope that as a series this will perhaps draw its claws in a little and offer a few rays of hope.  That probably makes me sound like a raging softie and doubtless the more bloodthirsty of you out there will be shaking your heads in disgust but there it is, warts and all.

So, a definite contender for most ‘grimdark’, a fast moving plot, lots of clashing of swords and an author with plenty of promise.  But, be warned, this book should come with a health warning and perhaps a cushion to hide behind.  I’m away now to think of happy thoughts, whiskers on kittens, and lots of hand clapping whilst whispering ‘I do believe in fairies, I do believe in fairies, I do believe in fairies’.

I received a copy courtesy of the publisher, through Edelweiss, for which my thanks. The above is my own opinion.

 

Weekly Wrap Up : 16/7/17

Posted On 16 July 2017

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I hope you’re all having a great week and enjoying some sunshine?  This week I’ve read the following:

Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero
Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory -review to follow
Godblind by Anna Stephens – review to follow

Next week I’m hoping to get to:

  1. Princess of Blood by Tom Lloyd
  2. Graveyard Shift by Michael F Haspil
  3. Blackwing by Ed McDonald

Of course I might not get to them all but we’ll see.

My cover highlight this week is:

Isn’t that a stunning cover?

How was your week? What you currently reading?

 

Ear ear..

Posted On 15 July 2017

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I have taken the plunge into audio books and thought I’d share my experience so far.  To be honest I never thought audio books would work for me, I thought I needed to see the words on the page or that my attention would wander and I’d miss relevant information.  So, why the change?  Well, I’m walking home from work at the moment. Now, I’d like to pretend that I’m on some sort of health kick but that’s not the reason. Basically, I use public transport to get to and from work and in a few weeks the main road I travel on is going to be closed for 12 weeks for repairs with all the chaos and congestion that you can imagine resulting from that.  Basically I can’t be bothered so I’ve decided to walk and have been doing so now for a couple of weeks. The only problem is that I use my journey to read and reading and walking is about as convenient as painting your toe nails and skiing and as I don’t want to trip and fall under a bus I came up with audio.

I’m very pleasantly surprised so far. My first book wasn’t a great success in that I wasn’t enjoying it and I’m not sure whether to feel guilty or not about that but it was a learning curve either way. I started with a book that was the fourth in series and for me it wasn’t a hit. I couldn’t get used to the voices used, they didn’t fit the idea I had going on in my head when I read the previous books.  So, note to self : no swapping in the middle of a series although I figure that starting on audio and switching to reading would work for me perfectly fine.  I’ll have to experiment and find out.

Not to be deterred I signed up to Audible but I figured I needed to check out my library too.  I got some very good advice from a fellow blogger (thank you) and off I went (not exactly on an adventure, more like a quest).  Anyway, I’ve signed up to my library now and although it’s not got a huge selection of audio books I’m giving it a go. My second book was more an experiment as I learned my way around and was actually really good fun even if it wasnt a book I’d normally choose.

Since then I’ve purchased two more books from audible which I loved and put reserves on quite a few books from the library.

I think audio books and I are going to get along very well indeed. I particularly like that I can listen along whilst doing things like cooking or ironing.

I resisted e-readers for a very long time and yet now love reading on kindle. It’s so easy to keep notes, highlight people or place names, keep your place or buy books and now I think I’m also going to be an audio book convert too!  Who knew.

If you’re like me and you’re resisting the urge then I would say give it a try using your local library, its easy, it expands the number of books on offer and you could give it a quick trial like I did. Nothing to lose and plenty to gain.

My audio books so far have been:

  1. Thunderbird by Chuck Wendig
  2. How to Flirt with a Naked Werewolf by Molly Harper
  3. Borderline by Mishell Baker
  4. Phantom Pains by Mishell Baker

Coming up next in audio I have to look forward to:

  1. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
  2. Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

Have you recently given audio a try? Do you enjoy it?  Feel free to share any hints or tips as I’m a relative newbie and so any advice greatly received and most welcome.

 

“They sailed away, for a year and a day, To the land where the Bong-tree grows

FFO.jpg

Here we are again with the Friday Face Off meme created by Books by Proxy .   This is a great opportunity to feature some of your favourite book covers.  The rules are fairly simple each week, following a predetermined theme (list below) choose a book, compare a couple of the different covers available for that particular book and choose your favourite.   Future week’s themes are listed below. This week’s theme:

Boats “The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea, in a beautiful pea green boat…”

The first book I thought of for this one was a book that I’ve recently been seeing reviews for: The Ship by Antonia Honeywell:

My favourite cover is the first – the spooky, misty waters – I’m not sure that this really is representative of the book but I like the eerie feel.

ship1

Which is your favourite?

Next week – Planet

Future themes:

21/07/2017 – Planet “Any planet is ‘Earth’ to those who live on it”

28th July 2017 – The kindest use a knife, because the dead so soon grow cold (A cover which features a knife)

4th August 2017 – From the ashes a fire shall be woken (A cover which features fire)

11th August 2017- No soldier outlives a thousand chances (A cover which features a soldier)

18th August 2017 – The world was my oyster but I used the wrong fork (A cover which features food)

25th August 2017 – If I be waspish, best beware my sting (A cover which features an insect)

1st September 2017 – Being born in a stable does not make one a horse (A cover which features a horse)

8th September 2017 – That great condenser of moral chaos, The City (A cover which features a city)

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