All posts by kate

Review: The Aeronaut’s Windlass

The Aeronaut’s Windlass: Book 1 of the Cinder Spires by Jim Butcher

Since time immemorial humanity has lived inside the Spires, habitats towering for miles over the dangerous, monster-inhabited surface of the world.

Captain Grimm of the merchant airship, Predator, was dismissed from Spire Albion’s military in disgrace – now his ship and crew are all he has, and he’s fiercely loyal to both. When the Predator is severely damaged in combat Grimm has only one choice – take on a clandestine mission for Albion’s leaders, or stay grounded for good.

And even as Grimm undertakes this perilous task, he will learn that the conflict between the Spires is merely a premonition of things to come. Humanity’s ancient enemy, silent for more than ten thousand years, has begun to stir once more. And death will follow in its wake . . .

This has been on my TBR pile for aaaaaages, and I keep meaning to read it! One of the issues was that I’d got it in hardback, which is great, but not helpful for carrying around. However!

Definitely, definitely worth the wait.

It’s action-adventure in its full, crystal-enhanced, cannon-splintered, cutlass-swinging glory. Or possibly cat-claw swinging? It’s Napoleonic-era battleships combined with fantastical spires, aetheric powers mixing with good old-fashioned politics, human relationships of all types mixing with the more dubious motivations of Rowl’s cat-kin and the strangeness of crystal-speakers….

In short, it’s an excellent read.

I loved the worldbuilding; the Napoleonic-era terminology lends itself incredibly well to flying ships, and it’s really nice how the familiar mixes with the strange to make the world work. The spires are home to humans but also monsters, and….cats? Rowl is a wonderful character; as aloof and self-centred as everyone knows cats are, but also fiercely loyal and looking out for his humans.

The rest of the cast is as good. I loved the villains; they’re a brilliant mix of “just doing my job” and evil/insane/weird motives. Madame Cavendish is particularly freaky! And the heroes; Gwen was my favourite, with her penchant for sticking her foot in things, but I loved Folly’s oddness and Bridget’s outsider perspective, and I liked seeing how the relationships developed. I loved Grimm too – his relationship to his crew and boat and superiors, and the dollop of past history that hasn’t been explained yet – but explained just enough to keep everyone guessing!

It is the first in a series and so while the arc of this book gets resolved, it’s left open for more – and I’m definitely on the lookout for them. It’s a brilliant, fun, action-packed, character-filled first book that combines war, steampunk, action, romance and…problems with doorknobs? Well, even the best wizards struggle with technology…

NaNo2017: Temporary (?) Hiatus

Givin’ up. And that’s fine!

A friend commented recently about my laid-back attitude to writing. I was chatting about writing thing, and commented that I’ve got a few things on the go, but for now…I’m not writing. But there’s no angst; I’m not particularly bothered. When I feel like writing again, I’ll write.

It basically comes down to practicality. I could write. I could sit and drag every sentence out of my brain. I could get the words down. But it would, frankly, make for a shit story.  I have ideas, thoughts, bubbles –  but the jigsaw pieces aren’t fitting together. I could make it look ok, ish, but….

I don’t have a problem with stepping back. I’ve got editing work and proofreading work and I’m still thinking about everything – I’m currently pondering names for No Man’s Land, thinking about the Tudor period, storing little autumnal images in my brain for later use, people-watching to see what I can store. Nothing’s going to waste. It’s just that currently, I’m not in a state to output it as I want to. And that’s not oh-my-god-it’s-going-to-be-shit or writer paralysis: it’s just practical for me. I know, after 15 years of writing, how I work best. And working when my brain is depression-fogged and broken is not the best time to get work out of it.

I also don’t see NaNo as a competition. I never have, since I break the rules regularly (novella writer!) and, frankly, competition doesn’t float my boat. I don’t give a crap who’s written more words (and friendly banter on the first day this year gave me a panic attack, thinking that everyone hated me) so honestly, I’m not a good NaNo candidate. I’ll leave the pushing onwards to everyone who does care, and for the time being, just do what I need to.

So I’m shelving the project, and I’m waiting. I don’t currently have a story that I want to tell – and that’s fine. I’ll just keep thinking, and one will come.

Review: The Rise of Io

The Rise of Io by Wesley Chu

The rise of Io cover

Ella Patel – thief, con-artist and smuggler – is in the wrong place at the wrong time. One night, on the border of a demilitarized zone run by the body-swapping alien invaders, she happens upon a man and woman being chased by a group of assailants. The man freezes, leaving the woman to fight off five attackers at once, before succumbing. As she dies, to both Ella and the man’s surprise, the sparkling light that rises from the woman enters Ella, instead of the man. She soon realizes she’s been inhabited by Io, a low-ranking Quasing who was involved in some of the worst decisions in history. Now Ella must now help the alien presence to complete her mission and investigate a rash of murders in the border states that maintain the frail peace. With the Prophus assigned to help her seemingly wanting to stab her in the back, and the enemy Genjix hunting her, Ella must also deal with Io’s annoying inferiority complex. To top it all off, Ella thinks the damn alien voice in her head is trying to get her killed. And if you can’t trust the voices in your head, who can you trust?

Exciting, action-filled and dramatic! This is a sci-fi adventure, although it’s set on Earth and the aliens aren’t little green men (both of which are definite pluses). It’s a mix of action and thriller, with some nice tense moments; a good read for anyone who likes either of those genres! I haven’t read the rest of the series – although I believe they’re set in the same world, not necessarily concurrent. Certainly it doesn’t affect this book if you haven’t read any of the others.

While the set-up at first seems fairly simplistic (there’s a good side and a bad side, and the Baddy Is Bad) it gets more complex later on. I admit I struggled a little to follow the twists, but that’s more my not reading closely enough than any fault of the writing! Certainly it makes for some interesting action twists in the second half of the book. I liked Ella and the other characters are fun, nasty, interesting and attractive – Chu’s writing is fun and the character descriptions definitely give you enough insight into the figures that surround Ella.

So overall, it’s fun, action-filled, and worth a read if you like action sci-fi – I’m not sure if I’m going to pick up any of the others, but it was certainly a good recommendation! (via Books on the Hill).

Depression, Writing and Week 1 of NaNoWriMo

An update from Day 7…I’m somewhere around 17,000 words, of which about 10,000 were the first day.

Depression is absolutely crippling me at the moment.

This is why I don’t usually try to force writing; every word is like pulling teeth. My head’s full of grey fog, and the story. Just. Will. Not. Come. It won’t flow. The characters are flat, the scenery isn’t there so I can’t describe it, and everything’s just one damn event after another. I don’t care about this story.

And frankly, that sucks. I know I can, and I want to. I loved the story when I was planning, but currently, I’m just not doing it justice. It’s frickin’ difficult to push through the fog long enough to write a couple of sentences, just so I can put something in my wordcount.

I’m taking it day by day – as some days are better, some worse – but I seem to have had a run of bad ones recently. I’m hoping that for one day, the fog might lift and I might be able to write again…

Just struggling at the moment. One step at a time, one day at a time, one sentence at a time. That’s all I can do.