Sue has been reading Burke and the Pimpernel Affair by Tom Williams
Burke and the Pimpernel Affair is book six in a series of adventures involving Major James Burke, an actual person who existed according to the author. This is the first of these I have read, and worked very well as a standalone. It is a story of post war politics and intrigue, with Burke sent to France by his superior, Colonel Gordon, to act as a British spy in the Paris environs, seeking the weakness in a chain of safe houses run by the Alien Office, from where a number of British agents have been disappearing.
As the author details in his Historical Note at the end of the book most of the historical detail of this book is accurate and a lot of research was involved. This makes for a believable and richly detailed tale of a spy much in the same vein as James Bond, if James Bond were alive in the Napoleonic Era. The hero, James Burke, even has the same initials and irresistible roguish, yet gentlemanly way with the women as Bond.
I really enjoyed the camaraderie between Major Burke and his partner Sgt. William Brown immensely. They saved each other’s lives without a second thought however dangerous the rescue attempts they had to mount.
Their adversary, Fouché, the chief of the Parisian police force, was supposedly impossible to deceive, having eyes and ears everywhere, and yet with luck mostly on their side, Burke and Brown managed to pull the wool over those eyes repeatedly.
There were some humorous escapades which I found very welcome and a touch of romance between Burke and one of Empress Josephine’s attendants, Amelie.
To sum up this was a highly enjoyable spy story with believable detail and vivid descriptions of the world of Paris under the Emperor Napoleon, which allowed the reader to imagine the setting easily. I would recommend it to anyone who likes historical fiction – particularly involving a loveable roguish spy with luck on his side.
1809: when a mission running agents into Napoleon’s France goes horribly wrong, it’s up to Burke to save the day. With the French secret police on his trail, can he stay alive long enough to free British spies from imprisonment in the centre of Paris? And how does the Empress Josephine fit into his plans?
Burke’s most daring adventure yet sees him and his loyal companion William Brown using all their cunning and courage to survive as they move from the brilliance of Napoleon’s court and Society parties to the darker Paris of brothels and gambling dens.
A thrilling story set against a convincing historical background.
Sue has been reading Why Odin Drinks by Bjørn Larssen
Why Odin Drinks is a collection of four comedic fantasy retellings of the Norse myths. The stories are peppered with familiar names from the Norse myths and stories which have been told many times in Norse fantasy, but never before with such snarky and irreverent humour. Larssen’s take on the myths is truly original and well worth reading.
In the first story, Creation, which was previously published as a standalone, we see Odin and his lesser known brothers Vili and Ve on a creation spree with wide eyed abandon.
Odin philosophizes about what makes a thing alive and whether it is OK to eat such things. Vili continues making pretty things and Ve makes things that cause pain and destruction.
When humans are added to the mix the author includes some social commentary.
Chaos ensues until a tragedy occurs and gives the gods pause. Then Odin turns introspective while considering that actions have consequences – even those of the gods…
Creation’s tongue in cheek humour is refreshing and makes for many laugh out loud moments.
The second story is Loki Runes Everything, in which Odin is continuing to haphazardly create things without any kind of order or planning – until he comes to the conclusion that he needs both a plan and someone to organise him – he needs a wife! I’m sure many people will be able to relate to this feeling. And wouldn’t it be perfect if his wife could see the future and help decide which order to create things in? Enter Frigg. Now everything will be perfect, right? It isn’t long before the reality of living with said wife and trying to satisfy her every whim kicks in.
Frigg sees everything in the future all at once which is highly overwhelming – particularly since she doesn’t have any coffee, pillows, Manolos or concealer yet!! What has Odin been playing at?!
In this story Larssen includes the myth where Odin hangs from the World Tree, Yggdrasil with a spear in his side in order to procure the power of runes, Loki having trussed him up and stuck the spear in him as per Odin’s request. Up to this point, his main advisor has been Madam A (Angrboda from the myths), whose propensity for bondage has given him ideas suggesting being hanged from a tree might be enjoyable at some level.
When Odin meets the three Norns, they have an interesting lesson in verb tenses for Odin, which must have been extremely difficult to write and/or edit, with each sister speaking in their own tense the whole time, with Odin getting more and more confused:
““So I am sitting here with time?” Odin asked, paying less attention to Skuld’s words than he will think he should. Had. Would have will.”
Story 3 is Fashionteller and features Frigg as a future-telling fashion victim goddess. I enjoyed Frigg’s description of her visions as “future burps” and her unhealthy obsession with a future tv show called Blabbing with Bjarnisdóttirs. There are so many things she has seen and wants to own now, but her voracious appetite will not be slaked if she cannot describe the things properly to Odin, their creator.
When Freya and Freyr show up from Vanaheim, Freya’s condescension towards frumpy Frigg reminded me of Alexis Rose from Schitt’s Creek.
Frigg’s constant disappearing into visions of the future are annoying Skuld since the things Frigg sees will now have to happen and that complicates the Norns’ tapestry of Time.
I really enjoyed Frigg’s characterisation. No wonder she is cranky when she can’t yet have all of the lovely future things she sees and is constantly being mansplained to by people who don’t know anywhere near as much as she does and can’t take their eyes off her chest.
Larssen has an engaging way of addressing the reader without actually doing so directly:
“The list kept expanding anyway in a slightly deluded way, not unlike what would be called TBR piles in the future. Unfortunately, similar to all owners of TBR piles, Frigg didn’t know which of her expectations were unrealistic.”
The final story is The Well of Wise-Dom which has a number of insightful and somewhat prophetic comments to make about war. Sir Daddy Mímir is the leather-clad Wise-Dom who tries to stop Odin from seeking all knowledge by drinking from his well. But Odin being Odin is stubborn and determined to do whatever he wants. He gains insight into how to win wars – by having the best, strongest and hardest warriors:
“The only way to stop a great army is to have an even greater army.”
“…What I’m saying is that there is no such thing as inevitable when you have control.” Bjørn Larssen is a very talented comedic writer. His timing is perfect and the hilarity flows so well that you can read each of these novellas in one sitting. However, there is always an intelligent social commentary to be found not too far beneath the surface satire of his stories. If you are a fan of absurd humour with a point of view, you will love this book as much as I did!
Ever woken up being a God, but not knowing how to God properly?
Poor Odin must restrain his brothers, who create offensive weapons such as mosquitoes and celery; placate his future-telling wife, Frigg, who demands sweatpants with pockets; listen to Loki’s Helpful Questions; hang himself from Yggdrasil for nine days with a spear through his side (as you do); teach everyone about nutritional values of kale (but NOT celery); meet a Wise Dom, Sir Daddy Mímir, in order to outwit those who outwit him; and, most importantly, prove he is The All-Father, while his brothers are, at best, Those-Uncles-We-Don’t-Talk-About.
This nearly (except in Vanaheim) universally acclaimed retelling of the Gods’ first millennium answers way too many questions, including ones on Freyr’s entendre, horse designing… and why Odin drinks.
Sue has been reading Waxing Lyrical by Adam Jacob Burgess
Firstly I should state that Waxing Lyrical is a sequel and having not read the first book in the series I was a little at a loss as to the background relationships among some of the characters. However, this did not hamper my enjoyment of this irreverent tale of a determined lute-playing gnome called Sawsse. Sassy Sawsse is set on becoming the best musician in the world by winning an esteemed competition. Her quest to find a lyrics teacher called Órga Dán to help her on her path forms the main drive for her story arc. Her lyrics really do leave something to be desired at the beginning of the story!! Sawsse is a member of a guild called Actum Tempus and some of her fellow guild members, shape-shifting Ruby and Rangrim the dwarf accompany her on her quest, which eventually takes them to Athrú, home to the Valley of the Roaming Winds. Two other guild members, Larn and Corinne, have been sent to Athrú to investigate a magical scroll which has turned all of its readers into babies.
Meanwhile also in Athrú, a twelve-year-old girl called Agnes has been chosen by ‘The Magic’ to be the latest member of ‘The Twelve’ a gathering of the twelve most powerful mages, and finds herself with uncontrollable magical powers and no one to advise her on how to use them. She is also suffering from disturbing night terrors. These story arcs converge and Sawsse is left looking after Agnes while trying to meet her own deadline with Órga Dán.
The scene-setting in this short novel is imaginative and leads to an easily visualized world populated by gnomes, dwarves, goblins, ogres, trolls, imps and many other fantastical races, including a living mountain called Greg, a waistcoat-wearing stork and a bunch of necromancers:
“Thick snowflakes fell faintly there during winter, softly kissed the earth, and then remained untroubled for weeks. In other words, naff all ever happened on these serene lowlands. There wasn’t very much that could happen, because there wasn’t very much there. There were several farms, but the soil wasn’t rich enough to produce any decent crops, like cheesecorn, rhubarbham, and courgettes. Instead, the plains were blanketed with wildflowers like Silentus Witnessium, Broadus Churchus, and Morseus. Between the huge stretches of flowery fields ran long thin winding lanes. The road started in Pax, by the ruins of Zell, but when it reached the Tranquil Plains it split into myriad bridleways, pathways and laneways. It eventually did connect with the eastern side of Esh’areth, toward Dringle and the Bounce Lands, but it took a bum-achingly long time.”
Fans of British drama series will recognize the references in there and there were other similarly amusing references and puns peppered throughout the book. I particularly liked the name of Sawsse’s musical rival, the dwarf Vuvu Zela. There are also plenty of footnotes throughout the text which can break up the narrative but were more often hilarious. These footnotes are often snippets from the Gnomeopedia which is a little like the guide in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – a manual for gnomes handily explaining everything and everywhere.
As well as puns and humorous references, the book relies on many tried and trusted fantasy tropes: found family; an unlikely hero; a quest – and the author uses them expertly to craft a highly enjoyable and at times laugh-out-loud adventure. There are plenty of unexpected twists along the way.
I would recommend this book for fans of Dungeons and Dragons style adventures and comedic fantasy – but I would recommend starting with book 1 in the Actum Tempus Saga: In The Grip Of Time in order to fully do it justice!
The second exciting, hilarious, excitingly-hilarious instalment in The Actum Tempus Saga.
All Sawwse wants is to find master lyricist Órga Dán, learn everything there is to know about lyrics and win Esh’areth’s premier talent competition. Instead, she finds herself face-to-face with terrifying sea monsters, lonely necromancers, war-forging Little Kings, and even a pernickety dragon…
Still, this is all par for the course when babysitting the most powerful wizard in the world.
Especially when she happens to be twelve years old.
Sue has been reading Rise of the Sky Pirate by S.W. Raine
Rise of the Sky Pirate is a prequel to The Techno Mage novel by this author. It tells the story of Benedict Keenan and takes place in an alternative contemporary steampunk world where airships with rigid balloons are powered by alchemical infusions, and where there are steam powered carriages on the ground. The worldbuilding in this novel is intriguing. There is now an Upper London and a Lower London with the more affluent people living in Upper London having decided to separate themselves from the commoners down below. This is the case all over the world, not just in London and the different levels are known as The Lands Below and the Upper Lands. Benedict, an orphan is from Lower London:
“the upper class separated worldwide by detaching entire cities from the ground via alchemical infusions, nobles and alchemists were no longer commonly seen wandering among the tech users in the filth and grime of the Lands Below.”
When we meet Benedict Keenan, he has just escaped jail. He refers to his origins as making him:
”a dirty tech user of an orphan.”
His goal is to be seen as a nobleman and to move to the Upper Lands, hopefully sooner rather than later. He joins the crew of an airship on a rogue mission and quickly becomes an important crew member due to his many and varied skills.
Benedict is a lovable rogue, a slippery eel who can’t seem to be contained by the law authorities. He has escaped jail at the beginning of the story, and later we see him talk himself out of being incarcerated once again. He saves the life of Matthias, a concerned surgeon with a formal turn of phrase, whose only goal is to help people – yet he turns in Ben to the authorities in a moment of spite. The two eventually learn to trust one another and become friends.
Another close friend of Benedict’s is Kitch, a tart with a heart. She has been his friend from their shared orphanage days and looks after his clothes and other possessions for him when he’s in jail. She clearly cares deeply for him and they have become each other’s found family. I would have liked to see her play a larger role within the story, rather than being left behind in London.
Lady Catherine was Benedict’s beloved, but she died in a horrible incident caused by Captain Thomas Davies of the Gilded Cannon Rovers, a renowned sky pirate who has now become a frightening cyborg, with a red cybernetic eye and machinery for arms and hands:
“built like a brick house”.
Benedict still loves and misses Kate and vows to exact revenge on the cyborg pirate.
There are multiple locations in this story, which add interest, and there is plenty of fast-paced action between swashbuckling sky pirates and a plot to steal a mind altering alchemical infusion from a lab within a military building. There is also plenty of peril, torture, violence and mention of rape – but not done in a gratuitous way and not in any great detail, either.
I would recommend this novel to fans of YA steampunk stories and lovable rogues.
Before becoming the infamous sky pirate from The Techno Mage, Benedict Keenan was a disorderly drunkard from London Below—and in this spin-off series, his story is finally being told.
Straying from his dream of living like the nobles in the Upper Lands for far too long, Benedict takes on an easy mercenary job with a band of rogues to quickly get back on his feet. But when a surgeon from the Upper Lands—the sole survivor of a sky pirate attack—is found in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, Benedict is suddenly thrust into a dangerous high-stakes race against a poisonous alchemical infusion set to be released into the Great Lakes. What’s worse is that a man from Benedict’s past is at the center of it all. Can he foil the sky pirate’s plans and return to living his dream life, or will he find a new ambition?
For fans of Pirates of the Caribbean, Rise of the Sky Pirate is an action-packed steampunk adventure that reaches for the stars while saving the world along the way.
Sue has been reading The Fellowship Of The Flame by A. R. Silverberry
The Fellowship of the Flame is a short YA prequel novella set in the fantasy realm of Purpura, the same setting as Silverberry’s award winning novel “Wyndano’s Cloak”.
Despite its short length it is engaging, exciting and has a main character, Cap who is a wholesome ten-year-old hero who is full of heart. Brave and kind, we meet him stealing breakfast from the evil usurper Queen in order to feed his gang, and the hungry children of the slave village, ‘Desperation’.
During this escapade, the Queen ends up with whipped cream on her face, much to the delight of Cap’s gang when he tells them about it. The resistance to the queen’s rule is known as the ‘Fellowship of the Flame’, and Cap longs to become a member but alas, they do not accept children. He thinks his stunt with the queen’s breakfast may change their leader’s mind however and hopes to find the location of the Fellowship’s next meeting:
““On her face?” Rabbit asked. “Dripping off her nose,” Cap replied. They stared at him as if he were a god. “That oughta cinch us a place in the resistance,” he said, when he’d finished his tale.”
A younger version of Robin Hood perhaps? He is certainly full of empathy and compassion. Cap’s Gang of four comprises himself as leader, Falcon, Rabbit and Sparrow. I especially liked Rabbit’s endearing pronunciation of potato as ‘tapato’. The gang brought to mind the Lost Boys from Peter Pan, with their brave and fearless daredevil leader.
The Queen is understandably none too happy about her breakfast being stolen and the fact she ended up with whipped cream on her face so she recruits a relentless tracker, Caggrill, to hunt down Cap and bring him to her:
“Caggril the Great, Caggril the Tracker, Caggril the Man Hunter, who mopped up four battalions with a handful of soldiers.”
From this point the pace of the novella picks up and an exciting chase takes place through varying types of countryside:
“Maybe he could lose Caggril in the brush. The man was stronger, his legs longer, but the low shrubs would slow him down, and the silky darkness would obscure signs of Cap’s flight. He took a random course through thickets, zigzagging, circling, scurrying left and right, gradually climbing higher. Let him puzzle that out!”
The world-building in this story is excellent, with locations ranging from a medieval style town, the Shady Bone tavern, a castle, forested land and a dangerous swamp. I loved Silverberry’s descriptive turn of phrase:
“The biggest danger in the swamp were the insects—mosquitoes, poisonous spiders, and especially devil babies. An old gypsy told him that when a group of them sang, like rattling bones, it was an omen of someone’s death.”
Makken is the brave and fearless leader of the Fellowship and Tich is his second in command whose name means “friend” in the common tongue. Tich is sent to accompany Cap while they try and figure out if he is genuine or a spy. We see Cap struggle with a moral dilemma regarding his tracker and make the right decision, albeit one that is not so great for his own chances of survival.
The Fellowship of The Flame is definitely worth spending a couple of hours with – I thoroughly enjoyed it and went straight to the author’s website to see what else was available. I am hoping my thirteen year old will read and enjoy it as much as I did.
A deadly hunter … A boy with an ill-fated dream … Only one can survive.
Caggril, ruthless mercenary and tracker, needs enough gold to release himself from the Purpuran army. Only then can he leave war behind and seek the near mythical land of Aerdem, by all reports a paradise.
Cap, a ten-year-old street urchin, knows it’s mad to attack the brutal queen of Purpura. But he’s hell-bent on realizing his dream. To join the Purpuran resistance, the Fellowship of the Flame.
Bent on revenge, the queen promises to free Caggril from his bond if he brings the boy back. But Cap has other problems. He learns that the queen is setting a trap for the resistance. With a wolf on his tracks and time running out, he has to warn the Fellowship. Or good people will die.
From the boundless imagination of A. R. Silverberry comes the first book in a breathtaking new fantasy series, The Chronicles of Purpura, tales of the brave deeds leading up to his award-winning novel, Wyndano’s Cloak.
Sue has been reading How The Wall Crumbles by Elaine Spaan
How the Wall Crumbles is book 6 in the Knitting Detectives series, but works as a standalone. Set in Oklahoma, this cozy mystery is told from the perspective of Izzy, an honorary member of the ‘grandmas’ knitting and detective group since her grandma passed away.
The Knitting Detectives are five elderly ladies: Betty, Rosemary, Ally, Martha and Rose. We meet the ladies at a Halloween parade all dressed as Sherlock Holmes making the most of their reputations for solving crime in the town. As well as Izzy, her friends Jack and Dee are also members of the group who are dead set on solving a murder when Izzy’s police officer husband Noel receives a call during the parade to say a dead body has been found on a construction site..
The detectives come across as gossipy busybodies who mean well. They are mostly caricatures, Betty is deaf and correspondingly loud. She is also bossy and thinks she’s in charge. Ally is the quiet one, Martha is a matchmaker, Rose is church-obsessed, Rosemary is Dee’s actual grandmother and determined to become a great grandmother and Jack is an eye rolling, camp drama queen of a gay best friend. This use of well-known stereotypes for characters is hardly surprising since this is a very short book with not enough pages for in-depth characterisation.
Connor Foster, a worker on the construction site Izzy manages was killed by a wall collapsing. Izzy feels responsible, but if they can prove it was murder it won’t be Izzy’s fault.
The elderly ladies are endearing and irritating in equal measure – sticking their noses into Dee’s love life and family planning, barging in on Izzy’s meeting with Emma, the owner of the land on which the construction site is situated and offering unwanted advice and theories all over the place.
After reading the blurb for this book I had expected more of a Halloween theme, which was one of the reasons I chose to read it at this time of the year, but apart from the fact that it opens on the day of the Halloween parade with Izzy trying to squeeze into a Cinderella costume, there is nothing else ‘Halloween” about it. However this did not matter as I found this book entertaining and in places hilarious. I think it would be enjoyed by most fans of detective novels, knitting and tongue-in-cheek humour.
The last place I expect to find myself on Halloween – in a Cinderella costume no less – is the scene of a crime.
A wall at a construction site fell and accidentally killed one of the workers. Naturally, the gray-haired knitters are convinced the wall didn’t fall all on its lonesome. No, they claim, murder is afoot! They’re just looking for an excuse to start another murder investigation.
When the police discover the wall didn’t crumble like a cookie, the knitters are determined to discover who used the wall to cover up a murder. It doesn’t matter that absolutely no one – including the police – has a clue why the victim was murdered.
The gray-haired knitters haven’t failed to solve a mystery yet. And they’re not going to now either.
Can the Gray-Haired Knitting Detectives find the killer when they’re plum out of suspects?
Each book in the Gray-Haired Knitting Detectives series can be read as a standalone, although they’re way more fun if read in order.
Sue has been reading This Much Huxley Knows by Gail Aldwin
This Much Huxley Knows is Gail Aldwin’s second contemporary novel and is written in first person perspective from the point of view of Huxley, a seven year old boy living in the outskirts of London during the Brexit period. His world revolves around his parents, school, church, swimming and play dates with his friend Ben. He occasionally hears things he shouldn’t when the adults are talking, assuming he is not within earshot, and he often repeats things he has heard at the most inappropriate times and to the wrong people!
Huxley is quirky and likeable with a talent for making longer words into shorter expressions, which entertains him immensely. For example “sensible” becomes “sent-a-ball” but this talent can be wearing for his parents. Sometimes these word games are more apposite than he realizes: Brexit becomes “Breaks It”.
Through his eyes we experience the casual racism often expressed by Brexiteers such as Ben’s grandmother, his fear of bullying, the contemporary political issues and the fear of strangers felt by all parents in this day and age in a charming and engaging manner. I really enjoyed Huxley’s black and white take on the world around him. Sometimes we need to take a step back and see the world through the innocence of a child’s eyes.
I’m seven years old and I’ve never had a best mate. Trouble is, no one gets my jokes. And Breaks-it isn’t helping. Ha! You get it, don’t you? Brexit means everyone’s falling out and breaking up.
Huxley is growing up in the suburbs of London at a time of community tensions. To make matters worse, a gang of youths is targeting isolated residents. When Leonard, an elderly newcomer chats with Huxley, his parents are suspicious. But Huxley is lonely and thinks Leonard is too. Can they become friends?
Funny and compassionate, this contemporary novel for adults explores issues of belonging, friendship and what it means to trust.
Sue has been reading Last Hope For Hire by Matthew Wilcox
Set in Chicago, Last Hope For Hire is the story of a man who is so financially defeated by the American healthcare system that in his forties, and past his prime, he returns to a dangerous yet lucrative life as a mercenary.
His two year old son, Benjamin, is severely epileptic with daily seizures causing him to lose developmental functionality. Benjamin is unable to deal with the slightest of illnesses without hospital treatment and the bills are mounting up.
The main character, his father Allen, was once a highly sought after mercenary known as “Mystic’” due to his ability to leave no trace behind him when on a mission.
He was once college roommates with Eamon Tor, the worlds first trillionaire, who has kept an eye on Allen’s career and who has a job for Allen that would mean an end to all the bills and may even lead to a cure for Benjamin.
Such “offers you can’t refuse” tend to come with a price though, and this one will involve Allen destroying a newly developed cell-editing technology known as “Eden Therapy”, which has been shown to cure cancer and would seem to be the answer to Benjamin’s and therefore Allen’s problems.
Nobel prize winner Tor is asking a lot of Allen:
“Are you asking me to break into wherever this Eden Therapy stuff is and steal it for you? Then you’ll use it to help Benjamin?”
“No,” Eamon responded.
“I’m asking you to destroy it. Then I’ll help Benjamin.”
Allen’s team are keen to sign up for the mission, after spending a little time with Benjamin and seeing some of the problems the family has to surmount on a daily basis. They comprise Daryl, Allen’s ex-partner who originally trained him. Haley, Daryl’s daughter and Allen’s newest partner who is in her twenties. She is a rookie and this will only be her second mission. Haley’s friend Kyle is their remote support specialist, going by his online handle of “Meat Tank“. Their first job will be an intellectual property heist to get them the blueprints of the research facility in Greenland, where the Eden Therapy is being tested, owned by octogenarian Olivia Rusk, recently cured of cancer and now seen kick-boxing on a video feed.
Dr Sloan is the scientist working in the underground Greenland facility. He is not allowed to leave and has been tasked with stopping the side effects to Eden Therapy which seem to send patients into a psychotic rage resulting in multiple deaths.
Tor wants Allen to rescue Dr Sloan and destroy his work, then bring him to work for Tor instead.
There are plenty of exciting action sequences in this book as the team attempts their dangerous mission(s). In fact the story begins in the midst of Haley’s first mission as Allen’s partner and sets the scene nicely for the type of work they do. The story is peppered with hi-tech gadgets: Allen has a personal drone cycle, futuristic (but out of date to Allen) weapons, a data cloning device and somewhat outdated but functional high tech armour.
The slower-paced sections involving Allen and his relationship with his wife and son are full of heart and treated with care and just enough detail to be believable for the reader and for us to understand that the author is experienced in this subject. The social commentary on the dire state of healthcare billing in the US is telling, and probably only relatable to people living in this country, although it may act as an eye-opener to readers from other countries. Just how far would you be prepared to go to pay for necessary healthcare for your family?
The characters are all fully fleshed out and believable. Allen’s wife Kelsey is harried yet tireless in looking after Benjamin; Haley is excited to be on the team yet somewhat nervous about her inexperience. Daryl is concerned for his daughter’s safety, yet proud of her capabilities. Allen is a desperate man driven back to a life he had hoped he left behind for good.
All in all this was an intelligent and enjoyable book and I would recommend it to fans of thrillers with futuristic gadgets and dangerous missions.
Allen’s son is in danger. A rare form of epilepsy is damaging his brain and Allen’s insurance is cutting him off. To cover the costs, Allen returns to being a high-tech mercenary. Not exactly ideal for a father who enjoys carbs far more than stomach crunches. After his first mission back, Allen soothes his wounds before getting a message from Eamon Tor, America’s first trillionaire. Tor tells Allen about Eden Therapy. It treats terrible diseases but can also drive patients insane. Still, it’s exciting news—especially with the offer of complete care for Allen’s son as a reward. But Tor has a surprise. It’s a choice that puts Allen’s conscience, marriage, and abilities to the test, and sends his ragtag team on a dangerous operation halfway around the world.
Creation is a short novella, which details the creation of everything by Norse god Odin, and his brothers Vili and Ve. Its irreverent humour is refreshing and makes for many laugh out loud moments. It was an absolute blast to read!
The three gods are new to the world and to creating things, they are learning as they go along. Tripping over tree roots and one-upping each other in terms of the size of the creations they make. These gods are getting carried away with their newly discovered skills and creating all manner of things just because they can: a tree with needles instead of leaves that throws cone things down onto your head as you pass underneath? Why? Who needs that? Celery? No one appreciates that one. Odin tries to restore some kind of order over the proceedings and gets increasingly frustrated!
Determined to do better than his brother’s invention of celery to put an end to his hunger, Odin invents a cow: “You can drink from it.” he pronounces much to the cow’s consternation. When he adds that you can wrap it’s skin around you to keep warm and eat what’s inside, the cow’s outrage increases.
Odin philosophizes about what makes a thing alive and whether it is OK to eat such things. Vili continues making pretty things and Ve makes things that cause pain and destruction. Chaos ensues until a tragedy occurs and gives the gods pause. Then Odin turns introspective while considering that actions have consequences – even those of the gods…
Bjørn Larssen is a very talented comedic writer. His timing is perfect and the hilarity flows so well that you can read this novella in one sitting. This is the funniest book I’ve read for a long time and belongs on the shelves with Pratchett and Adams. If you are a fan of surreal, absurd humour you will love it! I cannot wait to read the next installment in this series.
In the beginning there was confusion.
Ever woken up being a God, but not knowing how to God properly? Your brothers keep creating mosquitoes and celery and other, more threatening weapons. What can your ultimate answer be – the one that will make you THE All-Father and them, at best, the All-Those-Uncles-We-Don’t-Talk-About?
Sue has been reading The Ascension Machine by Rob Edwards
This book was a lot of fun to read. Aimed at YA/Middle grade readers, The Ascension Machine starts off in a space station in deep space, filled with interesting alien species such as the Welatak:
“The family pod of Welatak that sat near the toilets weren’t looking at me at all. The prime of the pod was playing a game that made the podlings clack with laughter, while the other adult in the group fiddled with one of the podling’s saline suits. They needed their suits to keep saltwater on their skin; Welatak dried out quickly in oxygen.”
The many different alien species at the transport hub brought to mind the scene in the bar in Star Wars: A New Hope, where we see all the different aliens – that scene was always fascinating to me and I imagine young readers will be equally captivated by the intriguing and unusual species described here.
We are introduced to our unnamed teenaged main character, who begins to tell us his story from first person perspective. He has lived aboard space stations for most of his young life, scamming travelers to make a little money here and there, without really thinking too much about the morals or consequences of his actions. Over the course of the novel, thankfully, this all changes, and he begins to see the error of his old ways as a grifter.
Searching for a lookalike to take over his responsibilities, while he goes off on some unidentified escapade, offensively rich Mirabor Gravane runs into our shady main character on the space station, running from his latest mark. Persuaded to take on the job, against his better judgement and for no small fee, our hero decides to call himself ‘Grey’ for short and reluctantly boards the ship for which Gravane handed over his first class ticket, without knowing what is in store at his destination. Another first class passenger, a somewhat scary looking large green alien of the Brontom variety, known as Seventhirtyfour turns out to have an enthusiastic and upbeat personality and quickly takes Grey under his four arms, eagerly showing him the commercial for the Justice Academy they are both heading towards – a college for would-be superheroes. The commercial makes it clear that you do not need superpowers to become a superhero – being true to yourself and having the right mindset will get you a long way on the path towards your goal and the courses on offer will build on these character traits:
“At the Justice Academy, we will equip you with the skills to be the hero the galaxy needs. Self-defence! Clue Analysis! Parkour! Rocket-Grapnel Maintenance! Rescueology!” Rescueology? “But we will also teach the other side of being a superhero.” And now there was a flurry of more studious, earnest learning scenes. “We have award-winning classes in marketing and public relations, costume design, and even philosophy, morals and ethics.”
In this way the Justice Academy is more inclusive than other similar schools such as Professor X’s Xavier Institute in the X-Men franchise.
The group of diverse friends Grey makes at the Justice Academy become his found family and they support each other in any way possible. In addition to the effusive Seventhirtyfour, they comprise Pilvi, a female human farmer and plant expert; Gadget Dude, a tech genius; reptilian female Dez; and winged Avrim. Seventhirtyfour was my favourite of the bunch, due to his unwavering positivity, friendliness and enthusiasm. Indeed at one point he is described as “a wall of green enthusiasm”. He is the glue that holds the group together.
The friends soon form a team for the inventive school sport of PowerBall and quickly learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Grey makes full use of his problem-solving skills, honed when running from his targets onboard space stations and now given full rein. These strengths and weaknesses translate well into the real world and when they are sent on a mission by Gravane’s mother they find themselves face to face with notorious gangs on a distant planet named Bantus, and make use of everything they have learned so far at the Justice Academy as well as their own natural skills to save the victims of these gangs. Hanging around with the morally upstanding Seventhirtyfour has already had a positive effect on Grey – he is no longer simply out for himself, he cannot ignore a mugging and also feels bad about his previous thievery. He acts as a spy rather than superhero and foils the gang leaders on Bantus. Thrown into the situation at short notice, Grey has been unable to decide on an appropriate superhero name:
““Who are you?” he asked. “I’m the Grey…” Accountant? Ghost? Avenger? None of them sounded right. “The Grey?” he repeated. Great, now my superhero name was the same as my assumed secret identity…”
Grey is brave, if also reckless, and puts his friends in harm’s way again and again, never seeming to learn from his mistakes.
The pace of this book is fast with a chase right at the beginning and continuing in this vein with exciting adventures and escapades: chases, gang fights and action sequences involving superheroes (both with and without powers and tech gadgets), spying, criminology and detective work, a kidnap plot, an evil and possibly insane enhanced arch-villain with an army full of alien henchmen, a thrilling escape through a cave system and since they are young adults at college, there is even some social and emotional awkwardness between Grey and a girl called Sky Diamond.
I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a good coming of age, action-packed school story with superheroes, aliens and a main character whose personality develops for the better and matures through his story arc. I loved how this book is filled with tongue in cheek humour and positive messages.
Welcome to the Justice Academy – the galaxy’s best superhero college! Teen grifter Grey arrives at the school carrying a lie: he isn’t really tech heir Mirabor Gravane. At the first opportunity Grey plans to leave the Academy. That is until he makes the mistake of starting to like his fellow students. The Justice Academy promises to “equip you with the skills to be the hero the galaxy needs” and Grey is beginning to believe the hype. But as he takes more risks to protect his secret, events spiral out of his control. When the real Gravane is kidnapped, Grey and his new friends must come together to mount a rescue and defend a city from an attack by hostile super-powered aliens. If he is to succeed, or even survive, Grey must decide who he is, and does he want to be a superhero?