WWW Wednesday – 21 August 2019

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words, where bloggers share the books that they’ve recently finished, what they are currently reading and what books they are planning to read next. Essentially you have to answer three questions (the Three Ws):

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?

Harp of Kings, Red Metal.png

The Harp of Kings by Juliet Marillier (Trade Paperback)

I am about 100 or so pages into this one so far and it is pretty interesting.  Hopefully I will finish it off in the next couple of days and get a review up of it soon.

Red Metal by Mark Greaney and Lt. Col. H. Ripley Rawlings IV. USMC (Audiobook)

Currently just over half way through Red Metal and I am still really enjoying this book.  Just as I predicted, this is a great military thriller and the authors do a fantastic job of showing off a major, modern day conflict.


What did you recently finish reading?

It has been a bit of a slow week for me reading wise, as I have only managed to finish off one book.  Still it was a pretty intriguing read and I am looking to pick up the slack in the next few days.

The Grace Year by Kim Liggett (Trade Paperback)

The Grace Year Cover


What do you think you’ll read next?

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The Dirty Dozen by Lynda La Plante (Trade Paperback)

The Possession by Michael Rutger (Audiobook)

Both of the above books sound like they will be amazing reads and I have had good experiences with the previous entries in their respective series.  As always, what I read next may change, depending on if I get some cool new books.

That’s it for this week, check back in next Wednesday to see what progress I’ve made on my reading and what books I’ll be looking at next.

Waiting on Wednesday -Highfire by Eoin Colfer

Welcome to my weekly segment, Waiting on Wednesday, where I look at upcoming books that I am planning to order and review in the next few months and which I think I will really enjoy.  I run this segment in conjunction with the Can’t-Wait Wednesday meme that is currently running at Wishful Endings. Stay tuned to see reviews of these books when I get a copy of them. For my latest Waiting on Wednesday, I check out Highfire, a fun upcoming novel from one of my favourite childhood authors, Eoin Colfer.

Highfire Cover.jpg

For those readers unfamiliar with him, Eoin Colfer is a highly acclaimed young adult fiction author who has written a number of entertaining and eccentric novels over the past 20 years. He is best known for his Artemis Fowl novels, a young adult series which followed a young prodigy criminal mastermind as he at first attempts to manipulate, and eventually befriend, a hidden enclave of technologically advanced fairies living at the centre of the Earth. The Artemis Fowl series featured eight books, starting with 2001’s Artemis Fowl and ending in 2012 with The Last Guardian, and a movie adaption of the first book is set to be released next year.  I absolutely loved the Artemis Fowl books when I was younger, and they were some of the earliest books that I would regularly re-read as a kid (although it has been a few years since the last time I reread them).

In addition to the Artemis Fowl novels, Colfer has also written a number of intriguing books and series, including The Supernaturalist, the W. A. R. P. series, Half Moon Investigations (which was adapted into a children’s show of the same name on the BBC), Iron Man: The Gauntlet, Airman and The Wish List. I have not had the pleasure of checking out several of these books, although my editor has. Most of them sound like Colfer’s trademark blend of oddball comedy, unique scenarios and outrageous characters. I did read The Wish List when it came out, and that was an awesome book that perfectly combined fantasy elements with humour and heart-warming emotion and drama.

As a result, when I saw that Colfer was releasing a new book I was instantly intrigued. Researching further, I found that Highfire will be one of Colfer’s rare forays into adult fiction and will focus on another unusual but entertaining-sounding fantasy scenario.

Goodreads synopsis:

From the New York Times bestselling author of the Artemis Fowl series comes a hilarious and high-octane adult novel about a vodka-drinking, Flashdance-loving dragon who lives an isolated life in the bayous of Louisiana—and the raucous adventures that ensue when he crosses paths with a fifteen-year-old troublemaker on the run from a crooked sheriff.

In the days of yore, he flew the skies and scorched angry mobs—now he hides from swamp tour boats and rises only with the greatest reluctance from his Laz-Z-Boy recliner. Laying low in the bayou, this once-magnificent fire breather has been reduced to lighting Marlboros with nose sparks, swilling Absolut in a Flashdance T-shirt, and binging Netflix in a fishing shack. For centuries, he struck fear in hearts far and wide as Wyvern, Lord Highfire of the Highfire Eyrie—now he goes by Vern. However…he has survived, unlike the rest. He is the last of his kind, the last dragon. Still, no amount of vodka can drown the loneliness in his molten core. Vern’s glory days are long gone. Or are they?

A canny Cajun swamp rat, young Everett “Squib” Moreau does what he can to survive, trying not to break the heart of his saintly single mother. He’s finally decided to work for a shady smuggler—but on his first night, he witnesses his boss murdered by a crooked constable.

Regence Hooke is not just a dirty cop, he’s a despicable human being—who happens to want Squib’s momma in the worst way. When Hooke goes after his hidden witness with a grenade launcher, Squib finds himself airlifted from certain death by…a dragon?

The swamp can make strange bedfellows, and rather than be fried alive so the dragon can keep his secret, Squib strikes a deal with the scaly apex predator. He can act as his go-between (aka familiar)—fetch his vodka, keep him company, etc.—in exchange for protection from Hooke. Soon the three of them are careening headlong toward a combustible confrontation. There’s about to be a fiery reckoning, in which either dragons finally go extinct—or Vern’s glory days are back.

A triumphant return to the genre-bending fantasy that Eoin Colfer is so well known for, Highfire is an effortlessly clever and relentlessly funny tour-de-force of comedy and action.

I mean really, what more did I really need to see to know that I was going love this book to death? This plot just sounds amazing, pure and simple, and I just know I am going to laugh my head off throughout the entirety of the book. If a drunk dragon hiding out in the Louisiana swampland is not a recipe for comedy gold, I do not know what is.

The characters in this book sound pretty cool, and I love that Colfer will continue his wonderful habit of creating odd-couple protagonists, such as Artemis and Holly Short in Artemis Fowl, or Meg Finn and Lowrie McCall in The Wish List. An ancient dragon and a young Cajun swamp criminal should make for a great pair, and I am really looking forward to the fun and tear-jerking friendship that will no doubt form between them. In addition, the antagonist of the story, Regence Hooke, sounds like he is going to be a very over-the-top and entertaining villain (he solves problems with a grenade launcher and wants to sleep with the protagonist’s mother, need I say more?), and I look forward to enjoying his antics in this book.

I think that we all know Highfire is going to be a pretty fantastic and enjoyable read and I am really looking forward to it. So far there are two interesting-looking covers for this book. I prefer the one above that has the dragon talon holding the martini glass, although the cover below has a certain swampy elegance to it. The book is set to be released in January 2020, and I am glad that I will be able to start my year with such a fun story.

Highfire Cover 2.jpg

Spaceside by Michael Mammay

Spaceside Cover

Publisher: Harper Voyager (Ebook – 27 August 2019)

Series: Planetside – Book Two

Length: 336 pages

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Last year, Michael Mammay debuted an absolutely incredible book, Planetside, the outstanding science fiction thriller that absolutely blew me (and the planet of Cappa) away with its inventiveness, addictive story and explosive conclusion. Now Mammay attempts to follow up this amazing first novel with a second book in his Planetside series, Spaceside.

I mentioned several times already on my blog how much I loved Planetside last year. Mammay’s first book was a spectacular story that blended a science fiction story about an advanced human military occupying an alien planet with an intriguing thriller around a missing soldier. Planetside was easily one of the best books I read in 2018, and I still cannot get past that epic finale to the story.  As a result, when I found out that Mammay was following it up this year with Spaceside, I knew that I would have to read it, and featured it in both a Waiting on Wednesday post and my Top Ten Most Anticipated July-December 2019 Releases list. I was lucky enough to get an advanced electronic copy of Spaceside from Mammay and the publisher, and it did not take me long to dive in and read this book. I had pretty high expectations, considering how good the first entry in the series was.

In Planetside, veteran soldier Colonel Carl Butler is sent to the planet of Cappa to find a young officer who mysteriously disappeared following a mission against an insurgent group of the local aliens, the Cappans. Butler’s mission quickly revealed a massive conspiracy where elements of the occupying human military had been working with the Cappans to genetically modify humans with Cappan DNA, creating a dangerous hybrid species. After uncovering the existence of these hybrids and the full extent of the technology that had been traded to the Cappans, Butler is forced to make the terrible decision to initiate a major missile strike against Cappa to prevent a huge number of Cappans and hybrids from escaping into the wider galaxy. His actions stop the planned exodus and devastate the planet, killing a huge number of Cappans. Butler is subsequently arrested, frozen and sent back home for court martial, with his fate unrevealed in the last book.

Spaceside begins about two years after the events of Planetside, and reveals that Butler is now the most infamous man in the galaxy. While many view him as a hero, others consider him a genocidal monster. Forced out of the army, Butler now has an easy job as Deputy VP of Corporate Security for Varitech Production Company, a high-tech military company on the planet of Talca Four. In theory he helps protect the company against corporate threats, but in reality his job is to impress clients and utilise his substantial military connections for his bosses’ benefits.

As a result, he is surprised one day when he is called into the CEO’s office and given an actual security assignment. A rival tech company, Omicron Technology, has had a breach in their supposedly unhackable computer systems, and Varitech wants to know how it happened and whether their own systems are vulnerable. With no obvious leads and no-one claiming credit for the hack, Butler reaches out to one of his contacts working at the impacted company. However, shortly after their meeting, Butler’s contact is found dead and Butler is now the police’s prime suspect.

Determined once again to find out the truth no matter what, Butler starts to dig around at Omicron and discovers that they were working on a secret project with links to his time on Cappa. When information arrives from the most unlikely of places, Butler is once again drawn into a massive conspiracy that he is not meant to survive. Can he find a way out of this, or will he be forced to redo his greatest mistake?

Wow, just wow. This was another exceptional book from Mammay, who has once again produced a fantastic science fiction thriller hybrid with some amazing moments in it. I absolutely loved this follow-up to Planetside, which not only contains another addictive story with an amazing protagonist but also serves as an excellent sequel to the first book. I powered through Spaceside extremely quickly and loved every minute I spent glued to my screen. This gets another five out of five stars from me, and I reckon that I will once again be placing Mammay’s latest book on my top reads of the year list.

Just like the previous book in the series, Spaceside, is a compelling thriller set in a great science fiction environment and with some intriguing military thriller and science fiction elements thrown into it. However, in this book, the protagonist is no longer an official investigator for the military but a civilian involved in events that appear to be corporate espionage. This results in an intriguing change of pace from the first book that I quite enjoyed. Butler is much more of an outsider in this book, and his methods of investigating the potential crime and attempting to uncover the conspiracy are a lot more clandestine than before. Mammay takes this thriller based storyline to some interesting places and forces the protagonist to make some surprising alliances in order to survive and get to the bottom of the investigation. While the story is more focused on corporations than the army, there is still a strong military element to the book, as Butler is investigating military technology companies. There is also a strong amount of military action towards the end of the book as Butler once again sees combat against an enemy. Mammay writes some strong military action based sequences in his books, and the reader can almost see the detailed and well-written fight scenes. All of this results in an extremely strong main storyline that leaves open the potential for another intriguing entry into this series.

I was really happy that Mammay continued to follow the adventure of his protagonist from Planetside, Carl Butler. Butler, who serves as the story’s narrator and point-of-view character, is a fantastic protagonist who was one of my favourite parts of the first book. Butler is a blunt and honest old character, whose craggy, veteran solider outlook on life infects his narration of events and helps the reader connect with his story. Just like in Planetside, Butler is reluctantly dragged into the events of this book and goes up against a seemingly superior opponent, who thinks that they know how to manipulate the old soldier. However, Butler is a wily operator who is able to turn the situations to his advantage through his rough charm and experience of dealing with people, especially former military personnel, who assist him with his investigation and help keep him alive. I particularly liked the clever way that he was able to manipulate the situation towards the end of the book by playing on certain character’s weaknesses, military training and humanity, and while his final plan did not have the explosiveness of his actions at the conclusion of Planetside, it was still a great scene. I look forward to seeing what sort of trouble Butler gets up to in any future instalments of this series, as he is a truly enjoyable protagonist.

I felt that Spaceside also did a great job following on from the story established in the first book of the series. I really enjoyed seeing how the author followed through with several of the storylines left open at the end of Planetside, as well as how he explored a number of the consequences of the protagonist’s actions. The main way that this was achieved was by showing the reader how Butler’s life changed following his bombing of Cappa. Because the story is told from Butler’s point of view, we get to see how the guilt from his actions and the events that led up to them has affected his psyche. Despite the tough outer shell he shows most people, Butler is struggling with whether he did the right thing and must now deal with being the most infamous person in the galaxy, receiving glares or praise wherever he goes. These events and inner thoughts impact how he reacts to certain events later in the book, and it is a clever and natural progression for the character.

In addition to the focus on Butler, Mammay makes sure to include several characters from the first book so the reader gets to see how their storylines progressed. Not only does this help bring in a previously established sidekick for Butler, as well as a sassy reporter contact who gives him intel and clues, but it also brings back Butler’s old mentor and friend, General Serata, for a tense scene. Serata was the man who sent Butler to Cappa in the previous book, and in many ways he is responsible for the destruction on Cappa as he knew how his old friend would be forced to act in response to what was going on there. It was great seeing these two characters awkwardly try to discuss the events of the previous book and come to terms with Serata’s manipulation of Butler. All of this makes for a gripping follow-up to the first book, and I really enjoyed seeing how the author addressed some of the events from Planetside.

Spaceside is an incredible second outing from Michael Mammay, who has a truly bright future in the science fiction genre. I once again found myself drawn into the excellent story and fantastic central protagonist of this book, as Mammay does an outstanding job crafting together a clever and addictive narrative that does a spectacular job following on from the author’s amazing debut, Planetside. Spaceside gets a full five stars from me, and I am already looking forward to Mammay’s next enjoyable book.

Book Haul – 19 August 2019

In the last week or so I have had a pretty substantial pile of books rock up which I am very excited to check out.  There are some really good books in this lasted haul, including some sequels to several great reads I reviewed last year.

The Queen’s Tiger by Peter Watt

The Queen's Tiger Cover

Ok, so I may be slightly biased because this upcoming book quotes one of my Canberra Weekly reviews on the cover, but this is probably the book I was most excited to get.  The Queen’s Tiger is the exciting sequel to Australian author Peter Watt’s fantastic piece of historical fiction, The Queen’s Colonial.  This should be a pretty epic book, and I hoping to read it well in advance of its release date.

Supernova by Marissa Meyer

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Another advanced proof that I am exceedingly happy I got already, Supernova is the final book in Meyer’s Renegades trilogy.  I really enjoyed the second entry in this amazing young adult superhero series, Archenemies, and I am keen to see how this trilogy ends.  Also, check out how awesome that cover looks, I know I am impressed.

Shepherd by Catherine Jinks

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An inriguing sounding Australian historical fiction book.  Shepherd is a slightly shorter book than some of the others in my haul, but it sounds like it could be an good read with an unique Australian story behind it.

Magebane by Stephen Aryan

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Magebane is the final book in Aryan’s The Age of Dread trilogy, which follows on from his previous The Age of Darkness trilogy.  I really enjoyed the previous book in the trilogy, Magefall last year, and it sounds like Magebane is going to be a pretty impressive conclusions to these books.

The Art of Dying by Ambrose Parry

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A medical murder mystery Victorian Edinburgh, this could be a fun book to check out.

State of Fear by Tim Ayliffe

State of Fear Cover

This looks like it is going to be a really cool Australian thriller.  Ayliffe’s debut novel, The Greater Good, was an excellent piece of Australian fiction last year, and I have high hopes for this sequel.

The Fifth Column by Andrew Gross

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The final book I got in this haul is a pretty cool sounding novel.  The Fifth Column is a thriller set around potential Nazi spies in 1940’s New York.  It sounds really intriguing and I look forward to checking it out.
Which of these books are you most eager to read?  Let me know in the comments if there is a book you want me to try and review first.

The Bone Fire by S. D. Sykes

The Bone Fire Cover

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (Hardcover – 25 July 2019)

Series: Somershill Manor Mystery – Book Four

Length: 310 pages

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

In the mood for a clever and captivating historical murder mystery? Look no further than the latest book from the brilliant S. D. Sykes, The Bone Fire, which continues the adventures of her reluctant 14th century murder-solving protagonist, Oswald de Lacy, who this time finds himself stuck in a unique situation.

After several years of respite, the Plague returns to England in 1361. As a survivor of the original outbreak in 1350, Oswald de Lacy, lord of Somershill in Kent, knows the devastation the sickness can bring. Desperate to save his family, he accepts an invitation from one of his friends, Godfrey, to shelter for the winter in his remote castle in the Romney Marsh with a select company of friends and allies. The rules are simple: once the de Lacy family enters the castle, the gates will be closed and no-one will be allowed to leave until the Plague has passed.

Arriving just ahead of the Plague with his wife, son, mother and valet, de Lacy finds that Godfrey’s castle is a grim refuge filled with a disagreeable group of fellow guests and servants. Despite this, the castle appears to be the safest place for them, especially with the Plague already ravishing the outside countryside. That is until their host is found murdered in his own library.

As the residents deal with the shock of losing the lord of the castle, other bodies are discovered within the castle walls. With nowhere to run except onto the plague-infested island outside the castle walls, de Lacy must once again rely on his talent for solving mysteries to save the day. However, it soon becomes apparent that de Lacy is up against a ruthless killer who delights in violence and is seemingly able to move about the castle undetected. Can de Lacy solve this crime before it is too late, or will he and his family face a fate worse than the sickness keeping them trapped within the castle?

The Bone Fire is the fourth book in Sykes’s Somershill Manor Mystery series, which started back in 2014 with Plague Land. The Somershill Manor Mystery books are an intriguing historical mystery series which follows the investigations of its protagonist in the land devastated by the Black Death. I had not previously read any of Sykes’s books, although her preceding release, City of Masks, is probably one of the books I most regret not reading in 2017.

I was initially drawn to The Bone Fire by the beautiful cover and the really cool-sounding plot, and I thought that this novel had some real potential. I am extremely glad I decided to get a copy of this book, as I was blown away by the fantastic and clever story. Sykes does an excellent job of combining a complex and compelling murder mystery with a unique and fascinating historical setting. The entire story is extremely fast paced, and I found myself racing through the book in no time at all, especially as it proved to be pretty darn hard to disengage from the fantastic story.

Those readers who have not had the opportunity to read any of Sykes’s books can easily enjoy The Bone Fire without any foreknowledge of the previous entries in the Somershill Manor Mystery series. Each of the books in the series can be read as a standalone novel, although existing readers will note the continuation of character arcs from the earlier entries in the series. Some information from the previous books does play a role in the story, including how the protagonist survived the first outbreak of the Plague, however Sykes always does a careful job of reintroducing these elements in The Bone Fire well before they become relevant to the plot.

At the heart of this book lies an excellent murder mystery storyline, as the protagonist is forced to investigate a series of killings in a remote English castle. Sykes has come up with a thrilling murder mystery storyline that follows a twisting and intriguing investigation. The protagonist has a huge bevy of potential suspects, each of whom has their secrets and schemes, which de Lacy has to unravel in order to get to the bottom of the murders, and there are a variety of motives for the killings occurring in the castle. The case goes in some very interesting directions, and the end result was very satisfying, with some well-plotted-out twists and some truly unique motivations for a murder. I had a great time trying to figure out who the killer was, and this was a terrific storyline to centre the book upon.

While the murder mystery storyline is an excellent part of this book, readers will also be entranced by Sykes’s use of a fascinating historical setting. Like the first two books in this series, the author has set the story in the midst of plague-ravished England. However, unlike the previous books, which dealt with the first bout of the Black Death between 1348-51, this story is set in 1361, when a second plague hit the country. This time the populace, including all the characters in this book, were much more aware of how deadly the Plague could be and took steps to try and avoid it. Sykes does an amazing job capturing the subsequent sense of despair, fear and paranoia that emulates from people who previously experienced the Plague, and it makes for a fantastic emotional background to the story. The various theories and ideas of the cause of the Plague are pretty fascinating, as are the methods with which the protagonists attempt to protect themselves from its influence. It also results in some heartbreaking, if not cruel, decisions from the protagonist, who is still traumatised from his experiences during the first sickness, and results in some dramatic character moments.

I really enjoyed the way that Sykes utilised the Plague and other intriguing historical aspects, such as religion, to enhance the murder mystery storyline of this book. The restrictions of the Plague keeping the residence within the castle helped make the story feel like a classic whodunnit in places with a small group of suspects trapped in an enclosed location and only one investigator trying to sort out the entire case. The historical setting also resulted in a number of intriguing potential motives for the story, such as religious differences, complex inheritances, arranged marriages and even clocks, all of which adds a compelling edge to the story.

The Bone Fire by S. D. Sykes is an exciting and gripping historical murder mystery that is really worth checking out. The author did a fantastic job creating a clever mystery storyline that perfectly utilises its bleak and intriguing historical setting. The end result is a terrific fourth book from Sykes that was a lot of fun to read. It is safe to say that Sykes’s Somershill Manor Mystery series is now firmly on my reading radar, and I will be keeping an eager eye out for the next book in the series.

WWW Wednesday – 14 August 2019

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words, where bloggers share the books that they’ve recently finished, what they are currently reading and what books they are planning to read next. Essentially you have to answer three questions (the Three Ws):

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?

Grace Year, Red Metal Cover.png

The Grace Year by Kim Liggett (Trade Paperback)

This is an intriguing novel that looks at a dystopian society where women are oppressed through a series of rituals.  I am only about 50 pages in at this point, but it is a compelling read.

Red Metal by Mark Greaney and Lt. Col. H. Ripley Rawlings IV. USMC (Audiobook)

I have been wanting to read Red Metal for a while now, as I believe it has the potential to be one of the best military thrillers of 2019.  I am three and a half hours into it at the moment, and it is an amazing book that I am having a lot of fun listening to.

What did you recently finish reading?
Howling Dark by Christopher Ruocchio (Audiobook)

Howling Dark Cover

Spaceside by Michael Mammay (Ebook)

Spaceside Cover


The Bone Fire by S. D. Sykes (Hardcover)

The Bone Fire Cover


What do you think you’ll read next?


The Harp of Kings by Juliet Marillier

The Harp of Kings Cover

This sounds like a very cool fantasy novel and I am looking forward to checking it out.

That’s it for this week, check back in next Wednesday to see what progress I’ve made on my reading and what books I’ll be looking at next.