Tag Archives: First in Series

The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke: review

The Assassin's Curse (The Assassin's Curse, #1)The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ananna of the Tanarau abandons ship when her parents try to marry her off to an allying pirate clan: she wants to captain her own boat, not serve as second-in-command to her handsome yet clueless fiance. But her escape has dire consequences when she learns the scorned clan has sent an assassin after her.

And when the assassin, Naji, finally catches up with her, things get even worse. Ananna inadvertently triggers a nasty curse — with a life-altering result. Now Ananna and Naji are forced to become uneasy allies as they work together to break the curse and return their lives back to normal. Or at least as normal as the lives of a pirate and an assassin can be.

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How good is The Assassin’s Curse? It’s so good I read it in a day!

The Assassin’s Curse is an otherworld fantasy story that can hold its own with the best of the genre. The Assassin’s Curse has about it the feel of Robin Hobb – although this instalment is shorter than one of a Robin Hobb trilogy, however, I suspect that there will be four or five books in this series (if you read The Assassin’s Curse, let me know if you agree!). Since I really want to know what happens next and how Ananna and Naji deal with the challenges they’ve been given, I shall be keeping a watch on Strange Chemistry’s blog for the next in series, although since The Assassin’s Curse isn’t released until October 2012, I suspect I will have a bit of a wait!

The story begins with our heroine running away from her betrothing ceremony – and I can’t say I blame her. Thus begin her adventures and her meeting with the eponymous assassin. One of the things that I particularly liked was that  it has a strong female lead. It’s funny how fantasy books much more often have strong, independent female leads than a number of other genres. Perhaps that’s why I’ve read fantasy (and Sci-Fi) books since I was a girl. One of my favourite authors was Andre Norton; Ms Clarke is most definitely in Ms Norton’s league.

The adventures the pair of unwilling co-travellers share follow logically from one to another, although there were a few points when I felt there was a tad too much running around without purpose and without Ananna and Naji growing further. I think there may have been some over-exuberant editing or revising around the storm sequence, since the plot progression got a little mushy around there. For me, a veteran of many sail-era naval novels, the lack of detail in, and slightly inaccurate, telling of the actions on board ship (I am being intentionally vague to avoid giving any of the story away) was a minor irritation – a very minor one. I would have liked more details about the Isles of the Sky – my mental pictures there was rather sketchy.

The telling of the developing relationship between Ananna and Naji is mostly well done – and I enjoyed that it is not too much of a formulaic romance. All of the characters are well drawn and believable. I hope we meet the wizard again – he is a character with much potential.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Assassin’s Curse and found the standard of world building by Ms Clarke to be well executed. I would have liked a little more detail on the various peoples and their cultures & religions to be worked into the tale. Had the book been somewhat longer, this and the other additions I have mentioned could have been included. The key to adding these details is to do it as part of the story and not for the author to tell the reader directly. I suspect that the publishers, Strange Chemistry, have a standrd format in which they publish and that the books they publish are edited to this format. I hope that as time goes by, they are able to offer a range of book formats (i.e. lengths).

I really liked the cover…the script’s font and the skyline are reminiscent of ancient Arabia and get the reader in the right frame of mind for the world they are about to visit.

I think this is a debut novel for Cassandra Rose Clarke and I have great hopes for her future books.

I thank Strange Chemistry for my opportunity to read The Assassin’s Curse, as a NetGalley ARC for kindle. I also thank them for introducing me to a new (to me) author. Details of the release dates for The Assassin’s Curse can be found in my WOW post.

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I’m claiming this book as No. 121/150 in the Goodreads 2012 Reading Challenge; and No. 6 in the First in Series Reading challenge..
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I particularly liked was that

The First Rule of Ten by Gay Hendricks & Tinker Lindsay: review

The First Rule of Ten: A Tenzing Norbu Mystery The First Rule of Ten: A Tenzing Norbu Mystery by Gay Hendricks

Tenzing Norbu (“Ten” for short)–ex-monk and soon-to-be ex-cop–is a protagonist unique to our times. In “The First Rule of Ten,” the first installment in a three-book detective series, readers meet this spiritual warrior who is singularly equipped, if not occasionally ill-equipped, as he takes on his first case as a private investigator in Los Angeles.

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I sent out a request to the Universe that I might be allow to win this book – and it was with much gratitude that I received this book as a First Reads prize.

I really wanted to read The First Rule of Ten when it arrived but practised a little delayed gratification as I completed some overdue reviews and read some author-gifted books I had agreed to review. Then finally, I could wait no longer. Once I started the book, I found it difficult to put down and after a couple of restrained sessions, I polished off the majority of the book in four hours one Saturday morning.

The First Rule of Ten is superbly written, peopled with detailed, well-drawn characters and has a multi-layered ‘who is the puppeteer pulling the strings?’ plot that moves along at a clip but without leaving the reader behind.

The whole concept of a Buddhist ex-monk (the term ex-Buddhist monk didn’t ring true to me, since Ten is clearly still a Buddhist at heart) who becomes an LAPD cop was so intriguing – and the explanation of his journey from one to another is gradually uncovered and expanded throughout the book. It is a delightful and realistic reveal that would happen if you actually met Ten. He is a warm and compassionate human being, who although flawed (aren’t we all?!) is aware, thanks to his monk’s training, of how these flaws are made manifest., He therefore works to guard against many of them, whilst accepting and acknowledging others, such as his love of his car.

The reader is able to learn from Ten, but the lessons are those of observation and never stray into that annoying realm where authors, via their characters, preaches at the reader. Instead, here the lessons are laid out in front of us and, like those presented by life, it is for us to choose to learn from them. It is well, in this situation, to remember, as we learn from the book, the First Rule of Ten: Don’t ignore the tickle …

This is an excellent book on all front and I am grateful to have read it. I thank the authors for making the book available through First Reads and the universe/random winner generator for picking me!

I’m claiming this book as No. 84/150 in the Goodreads 2012 Reading Challenge;  and No.4 in the First in Series Reading challenge..
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Horses of the Sun by Leanne Owens: review

Horses of the Sun (Outback Riders, #1)Horses of the Sun by Leanne Owens
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sunhaven Downs, a drought ravaged cattle station in outback Australia, is the home of Dane, Lani and Matthew Winter, three young outback riders whose lives revolve around their horses. When their city cousin, Amy King, comes to live with them for a year and declares she hates horses, they know their year will be ruined. What they don’t know is that Amy has a secret – a secret she is desperate to keep from her outback family, something that will ultimately save their lives on the night the drought breaks.

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I read this delightful book in an afternoon. I thought it was well written, although the “she didn’t realise that she would need this when disater struck” comments at the end of each of the early chapters were a little annoying. The plot moved along nicely with most of the actions staying within the bounds of reality. I found some of the “epilogue” actions a little unlikely, but hey, it all felt good!

I enjoyed reading this book although it is aimed mostly at the 10-14 year old market.  It is well written, with a clear plot and good characterisation.  The plot is outside the ordinary but is close enough to most people’s “real life” that it will be understood by the target audience (and they’ll all want to be Amy!).

Some of the episodes involve high drama and some difficult subjects.  These are dealt with in a straight-forward yet senstive manner.

I was particularly impressed with Leanne’s portrayal of Amy’s emotional life.  I thought Any’s reactions to events was very realistic and typical for her character.

The language of the book does not patronise its readers, and yet explains all the important parts to those who may not be familiar with them.  This is a delicate balancing act well executed.

This is exactly to sort of book I devoured as a child and I’m sure will be loved by today’s children.  It took me back to my chidhood when I hunted for new books in the “Brumby” series at my local library.  I think I may have one or two copies (bought in the library sales) stowed away in my childhood book boxes.  I may have to dig them out and read them again!

I may be persuaded to lend my copy of Horses of the Sun to my horse-mad neices! I shall look out for more books by Leanne.

I received this book after winning a Goodreads Giveaway. Thanks Leanne.

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I’m claiming this book as No. TBC/150 in the Goodreads 2012 Reading Challenge; and No. 3 in the First in Series Reading challenge..
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Hal Spacejock by Simon Haynes: review

Hal SpacejockHal Spacejock by Simon Haynes

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the fourth edition. Slightly revised and polished in August 2011, then released on Kindle and Smashwords.
“Better than Red Dwarf” – Tom Holt
Hal Spacejock, an incompetent accident-prone pilot, is given one last chance to save his ship. An ageing robot is trusted with a midnight landing in a deserted field. And a desperate businessman is prepared to sacrifice both of them to get what he wants…
Combining relentless action with non-stop laughs, Hal Spacejock explodes onto the science fiction scene with the subtlety of a meteor strike and the hushed reverence of a used car salesman.

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I think that this book is trying to be The Stainless Steel Rat, but is not written well enough. The descriptions need to be richer, but not much longer, so that the reader can see the locations and people in their mind’s-eye. These were altogether too sketchy, which was a great shame as several of the characters were worthy of more attention. When reading Hal Spacejock, all I can see are the words on the page; I don’t like reading like this, I prefer to have the images play across my imagination like a film.

The set up and plot are well thought out, it is the execution of the writing that I feel is lacking.

As the story continues, however, the individual vignettes become increasingly predictable – without an increase in humour. I felt that the characters Clyde and Albion could have been used with more effect – we started to get to know them and then they disappeared!

All in all, an enjoyable read and I will probably read more of the series if I come across them.

I downloaded Hal Spacejock for free from Amazon

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I’m claiming this book as No. tbr/150 in the Goodreads 2012 Reading Challenge; No. 10 in the Why Buy the Cow? Reading challenge; and No. 2 in the First in Series Reading challenge.
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Tallis: review

TallisTallis by M.C. Rae

Kindle and ARC Cover

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Empire of Andresium is threatened by the corruption of the immortals, ancient beings given the gift of eternal life after the death of the last reigning empress. A prophecy speaks of their eventual downfall at the hands of one of their own, however. Tallis is known by most simply as “The Loren,” and seeks to avoid her destiny while trying herself to remain untainted by the decaying morals and indifference to the fates of men that plague her kind. As the events of the prophecy begin to unfold, Tallis finds herself conflicted between upholding her dedication to justice, and falling victim to the ramifications of following the desires of her own heart.

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Overall I enjoyed this book and would really like to read the rest of the series.  One thing I particularly enjoyed was that the narrator did not try to explain the book’s universe in terms of ours.  The reader was assumed to be of the universe, and explanations were given with an amount of pre-knowledge assumed.  I really enjoy this kind of story telling as it makes me feel part, albeit an initially ill-educated one, of the world.

The language used in Tallis is beautiful.  I described it as “archaic” in my Goodreads updates as I couldn’t think of a better description.  I want to be clear that I think this is a good thing.  In some ways it makes the reading of the book a little more conscious…I found I was noticing the language and writing style almost as much as I was absorbing the story.  I particularly enjoy beautiful, well-used language and I relished this excellent example of its use.  My only concern would be that “the youth of today” (I’m not really that old!) won’t have the patience to perserve long enough with this style to develop a love and appreciation for it.  That would be a loss for them, and I hope that my lack of faith in them is misplaced!

In one of my updates, I queried the use of “Come again” as being out of context.  M. C. was kind enough to respond to tell me that this phrase is an Olde English phrase, seen in the US as something only stuffy, overly proper people say.  I explained my comment was because it’s a rather lazy slang phrase in the UK these days…not well thought of and with slight rude overtones – if I used it to someone they might well bristle.  It is really strange how a language can evolve so differently in two places when the contact is so great!

I did find the book quite slow to start, something I thought odd in a 58 page novella.  However, the story did move along before I got to the midpoint and completed this episode at a point that invites a continuation.

If I have any comments for change, it’s that I felt the characters to be a little fuzzy – I didn’t get to feel that I knew them particularly and therefore wasn’t deeply invested emotionally.  Some of the more descriptive passages I felt lacked something; they were more “tell” than “show” – I think show works better for a reader than tell because it flows more naturally and prevents the author interposing themselves between the characters and the reader.

As I said, I shall be on the look out for the next book in the series…I want to know if Tallis works out the solution to her conundrum…and if it’s the same solution I can see! LOL 🙂

I have shown two cover artworks because the ARC I received has the grey cover on the right, whilst the Goodreads page has the red cover on the left, which I presume is the one people will see in the shops/on Amazon.

I’m claiming this book as No. 15/150 in the Goodreads 2012 Reading Challenge and No. 1 in the First in Series Reading challenge.
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