Shafter has been on my kindle a while, possibly since 2016. I’m not sure where it came from, but I suspect it was a promotional copy. It’s also been up into the top five of my ‘next to read’ on more than one occasion. Now I’ve read it!

There are dozens of books starting with S I’d like to include. I’ve had to limit myself today, especially with a full Saturday review for you.

The plan for the month is to feature daily a book I’ve reviewed in the past (or review it that day), and also highlight others: not all are included each day.

  • review/featured
  • spacetime challenge (I host this reading challenge – you can join here)
  • middle grade (childrens) choice
  • series (love a good series – there’s a challenge for finishing those, too)
  • ‘notable’ reads
  • ‘outstanding’ books
  • my books!

Book Review: Shafter (Seeds Among The Stars #1)

by Margaret Fisk

Trina dreams of escaping the colony of Ceric and joining the spacer guilds, but it’s just that: a dream. 

Reality is a fight for survival in the abandoned subway tunnels beneath First City. Her father may be a polit, the wealthiest of the surface people, but she’s been raised by her shafter mother, taught to thieve by her friend, and mastered knives on her own. 

Even though her mother clings to the idea that her polit lover will rescue them from this life, Trina knows better. But when staking out a square during Festival, she catches the attention of her wealthy grandfather. Her life is about to change, but the price of starting over may be higher than she’s willing to pay. [goodreads]

My Review

For a while I wondered whether Shafter would indeed qualify for my Spacetime Reads Challenge. Trina may have been dreaming of reaching the stars, but there was a lot of work to be done on Ceric, a once-settled planet where the systems had fallen apart, before she could escape.

I really enjoyed the tale of Trina’s conversion from underground sneakthief (a shafter) on the planet, to manipulated sneak in the rat-runs of conduits behind the starship’s walls. The parallels are obvious, and Trina feels at home there. But her sister is making the adjustment from shafter-life to lady, or at least colonist, and the contrast becomes ever greater. The complex political shenanigans that Trina is forced, well, coerced or even just duped, into carrying out, threaten to overwhelm the story. I was nearing a state of confusion just before it all falls apart (for the manipulator). It’s really well written, with the anxiety and ambivalence of the protagonist tearing herself apart sending me back to the book as soon as I could after a break.

And although from then on you pretty much know Shafter is going to end happily, there is still a moment of doubt, before Trina heads off on her next step… And as that threatens to be a space cadet type of story, I’ll probably skip it. Although if there’s a third in the series, I’d be interested to see where it goes next.

A good read, with a promising future. And yes, Shafter does qualify for Spacetime Reads!

Other Spacetime Reads

The Ship Who Sang by Anne McCaffrey, is pretty much the original Brain & Brawn ship. In spite of the story’s age showing in the chauvinistic attitudes, it’s still an excellent read.

Synchronic is an anthology of time travel stories, nearly all of which are brilliant. One short story I read elsewhere featured Schrodinger’s Bar, a location that crops up in many of her stories according to author Kim May. A bar that is both there and not… I must hunt down more of these stories.

Middle Grade Reads and series

All my favourite S books seem to be series as well.

The Silver Brumby by Elyne Mitchell had me dreaming of brumby hunting (Australian wild horses) when I was about 12. When I was in my late 30s I found the places described were real. I saw some wild brumbies when I went searching for them. I have the original four Silver Brumby books; The Silver Brumby, The Silver Brumby’s Daughter, Silver Brumbies of the South, and Silver Brumby Kingdom. There are twelve listed now.

There are more to come in the Shadows from the Past series, too. Starting with The Shadow of Atlantis, this excellent time travel series from Wendy Leighton-Porter sends Jemima, Jo and Charlie, plus their cat Max down into a book whence they emerge on the island of Atlantis. In common with all the adventures, the kids arrive just in time to warn the locals of impending doom. Sometimes manage to help people avoid it. Wendy invented great mechanisms for overcoming obvious communication problems. Yet in the later books the kids seem to have become more dim as they go on. I mean, wearing Harry Potter sweatshirts to the Shadow of the Witchfinder was really stupid. There is an underlying quest going on too. That seems to be nearing its conclusion in one or two more books. Number 24 I think Wendy warned…

And then there’s Seed Savers by Sandra Smith, starting with Treasure which I’m discussing tomorrow. A brilliant science fiction tale of a society where manufacturers control and ration food, and where growing vegetables from seed is banned. It’s nearer than you think, and I’ve been warning Sandra of that for years, too. This does grow up a little after the first two books… ending with a pretty much YA final volume, Unbroken.

Shirley Link series by Ben Zackheim. Shirley is a perfectly normal schoolgirl who solves crimes in her spare time. Modern crimes, so that having a friendly geek to do some technical work is useful. Even if he is known to everyone else as the rich lazy kid. Full of excitement and adventure, and I wish there were more…

Salt, by Helen Laycock, is a mystery set at the seaside, but with plenty of intrigue and thriller elements, as you’d expect from this talented (and prolific) author. Some elements resonated with Looking for Emily, but the stories diverge from the opening premise. Both brilliant. Not a series, AFAIK!

Notable Books

Stranger Times by CK McDonnell is the story behind a newspaper. It’s gobsmackingly funny, weird and peculiar, and it’s set mainly in Manchester. The second and third were nearly as good; well worth reading them all. I think the inclusion of some of the headlines and various ‘published’ anecdotes makes it even funnier. And if you think you work with some odd characters… well, these aren’t exactly normal 🙂

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater is full of magic and mystery and Scottish-type legends and horses that come out of the sea. One of the best books I’ve ever read.

Self-editing for Fiction Writers is a must read for every author. Well, no, it’s not a must-read. It’s a bible. I do check it every time I start editing a book, since it’s a really good thing to remind myself of my checklist and other tips. And it’s right here on my desk, next to the dictionary, the thesaurus, and The Emotion Thesaurus.

Outstanding Book

Skallagrigg by William Horwood (who also wrote Duncton Wood and the Stonor Eagles) may be out of print. It may not even have been published in the US. Whether that’s fear of backlash that we could have been treating our cerebral palsy (CP) kids like imbeciles as late as the 1980s I don’t know, but it is a salutary tale of a young woman with CP who has sensible parents and modern aids like talking keyboards. Of course, earning lots of cash as a computer genius helps, even though she doesn’t communiate that well. But… she wasn’t confined to one of those dreadful Victorian madhouses miles from anywhere, which would have been her fate only thirty years earlier. The tale traces the origins, among special needs people, of a legend of the Skallagrigg, who will come and help you when you most need him.

Traumatic, tragic and uplifting, all at the same time. You can tell how much of an impression in made on me, even in my thirties.

Blowing my own Trumpet

snowflakes and shivers

I can offer you Snowflakes and Shivers, the seasonal collection of about 25 short stories, some of which were written especially for this volume. For the others, the stories generally appeared on this blog first, although they are no longer available. But I was short of a Christmas story or four, so I wrote some new ones.

‘Footsteps in the Snow’ emerged as a story for WEP one year. I reckon it was one of my best, so that starts the collection, and I hope you like the others. ‘The Flying Whales Save Christmas’ was a book title that I made up in the short story ‘The Bookfeet’ (in Weird and Weirder), which I particularly enjoyed. ‘Carruthers at Christmas’ may bear some relation to a Dickens tale, but then Carruthers always did steal treasures from others. Sir Woebegone has an outing too: I wrote in a meeting for him with a real friend, who sadly died recently. I’m glad she shines out in this story just as she was.

That’s all for today, so come back tomorrow for more. I’m hoping to meet more people who like the same kinds of book, so feel free to recommend something you’ve read beginning with the letter of the day!

A2Z Book Review | Shafter by Margaret McGaffey Fisk

6 thoughts on “A2Z Book Review | Shafter by Margaret McGaffey Fisk

  • 22 April, 2023 at 3:11 pm

    I dreamed about brumbies, too, when I was much younger, mainly from watching the movie The Man from Snowy River.

    • 22 April, 2023 at 3:36 pm

      I didn’t see the Man from Snowy River till much later, but loved it. I must read Misty of Chincoteague some time. I have vague memories of a film with horses who had swum ashore and lived on an island. Do you think that’s it?

  • 23 April, 2023 at 12:21 pm

    I have the Silver Brumbies on my TBR 🙂 Unfortunately, Scorpio Races triggered me too much (that scene on the beach with the dog torn apart), so I didn’t finish it.

    Ronel visiting for S:
    My Languishing TBR: S
    Speedy Steeds

  • 23 April, 2023 at 9:45 pm

    Oh, I remember Skallagrigg too! What a wonderful and emotionally compelling book. i loved Duncton wood and The Stornoway Eagles too.

  • Pingback:Reflections on the A to Z Challenge 23 - Jemima Pett

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