*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Athena’s Champion – Book 1 of the Olympus trilogy by David Hair and Cath Mayo #Brainfluffbookreview #Athena’sChampionbookreview

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One of my lovely blogging friends recommended this, though I’m really sorry I can’t remember who is was, or I would namecheck her as this is a real gem.

Prince Odysseus of Ithaca is about to have his world torn apart. He’s travelled to the oracle at Pytho to be anointed as heir to his island kingdom; but instead the Pythia reveals a terrible secret, one that tears down every pillar of his life, and marks him out for death. Outcast by his family, hunted by the vengeful gods, Odysseus is offered sanctuary by Athena, goddess of wisdom, and thrust into the secret war between the Olympians for domination and survival. Only his wits, and his skill as a warrior, can keep him ahead of their power games – and alive.

Odysseus staggers away from this rite of passage an outcast, when he was expecting it to be part of his preparation and training for ruling Ithaca, a small rocky island off the Greek mainland. So he is out of options when Athena appears and offers to provide him with sanctuary, in return for his service. I’ve always had a soft spot for poor old Odysseus, whose – like Heracles – pays a high price for serving the gods, becoming entangled in the Trojan War and then taking ten long years to return home, to the extent that his name has come to mean a long, important journey… odyssey.

This retelling, however, deals with the events that lead up to the Trojan War and explains why the Greeks were such a quarrelsome lot. Once Odysseus has sworn his allegiance to Athena, he is automatically regarded with enmity by other members of the Olympian family, given they spend much of their time plotting against each other, terrified they will lose influence and get swallowed up by competing deities with more worshippers.
In this dangerous, uncertain world, where young Odysseus no longer even has the safety of his own family, he is forced to spend far more time than he’d like with Athena’s other champion, the mighty Theseus. This depiction has the great warrior as a bullying drunken braggart, convinced he is irresistible to woman. I like the fact that the events leading up to the Trojan War are not just explained by the gods’ insecurities, but also by Troy’s growing power as a trading centre that threatens the economy of the Spartan kingdom and the surrounding states.

I am conscious that I haven’t conveyed the pace and drama of this retelling – in amongst the intriguing backstory and strong characterisation, there is a cracking action adventure, full of fights, plots, desperate schemes and dangerous situations. Odysseus, though strong and well trained, is also too short to be able to prevail against might of a gigantic warrior like Theseus in hand-to-hand combat. However, he is clever, quick-witted and able to spin a tale to get himself out of a tricky situation, which is just as well…

I loved this one. And if you have a fondness for well-told retellings of Greek gods and heroes, this comes very highly recommended. While I obtained an arc of Athena’s Champion from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

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Friday Faceoff – When spiders unite, they can tie down a lion… #Brainfluffbookblog

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and the subject this week featuring on any of our covers is SPIDERS, so I’ve selected Spider Bones – Book 13 of The Temperance Brennan series by Kathy Reichs.

 

This edition was produced by Scribner in August 2010. It is my favourite with that detailed scene with the river and fields providing the backdrop for that dew-beaded web. The hole in the middle where the spider ought to be somehow makes it creepier. If I have a grumble, it’s that the title font is rather plain and flat. I would have liked to have seen it embossed or at least bevelled. But I think it is effective and clear.

 

Published in August 2010 by Pocket, I love the brilliant yellow of the cover that glows, especially in thumbnail. The trees festooned with webs scrambling across the top of the cover gives a sense of menace. The font featuring Reichs’ name nicely pops and the lonely woman walking with the tree roots under her feet looks strikingly vulnerable. The problem I have with this one is that there is far too much chatter over the cover – otherwise it would be my favourite.

 

This edition, published by Arrow in July 2011, is also a good effort. I love the bones featured in the foreground with a trailing web around it, submerged under the water. But I’m particularly keen on the wonderful title font that really stands out in thumbnail.

 

Produced by William Heinemann in October 2010, this edition has an alternative title – Mortal Remains. I do like this effort – the title and author text contrasts well against the surface of the lake or river and looks particularly good in thumbnail. I do wonder exactly what those dear little fish are feeding on…

 

This edition, published by Arrow in March 2013 is a close contender for my favourite cover. I love the web of cracked glass caused by a bullet hole and the uneven title font scratched in it. Clever and effective, the forest is partially obscured by the thick dirt on the crazed windscreen. My problem with this version is that I think it looks as this is horror novel, instead of a murder mystery. Which is your favourite cover?

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook The Consuming Fire – Book 2 of The Interdependency series by John Scalzi #Brainfluffbookreview #TheConsumingFirebookreview

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I am linking this post up for Sci-Fi Month, hence the fabulous banner designed by Imyril. I was thrilled that I’d been immediately approved to receive a review copy of this one, given I’d really enjoyed the first book, The Collapsing Empire, and getting hold of sequels on Netgalley has proved to be increasingly difficult. When it arrived, I realised I only had the first six chapters… I’m not quite sure what to do with those, given I cannot possibly post an honest review of a book based on the opening chapters. So I decided to get hold of the rest of the book so I could at least read the rest of the story…

The Interdependency, humanity’s interstellar empire, is on the verge of collapse. The Flow, the extra-dimensional conduit that makes travel between the stars possible, is disappearing, leaving entire star systems stranded. When it goes, human civilization may go with it—unless desperate measures can be taken. Emperox Grayland II, the leader of the Interdependency, is ready to take those measures to help ensure the survival of billions. But nothing is ever that easy. Arrayed before her are those who believe the collapse of the Flow is a myth—or at the very least, an opportunity that can allow them to ascend to power.

This is an interesting series for a variety of reasons. Dystopian sci fi where corporate greed is rampant and unchecked is a familiar trope in epic science fiction – but the Interdependency was stitched together to try and smooth out the destructive cycles of boom and bust that afflict a capitalist system. Now the Flow, a sort of super-highway of extra-dimensionality that allows far-flung star systems to trade with each other, is beginning to fail, the scrabble for power is intensifying. The corporate wheeler-dealers are magnificently cynical and greedy and everyone has plenty of snark, with the exception of Grayland II, who seems genuinely sweet.

Like many epic science fiction stories, Scalzi has passages of semi-omniscience where he tells the reader what is going on, rather than depicting the whole situation from the viewpoint of one of his cast of characters. This keeps the pace going and allows the reader to know some of the finer points that Scalzi thinks is important – and he makes this info-dumps enjoyable by the dry tongue-in-cheek tone he adopts. His characters are vivid, with some almost parodies in their desperation for more power, more leverage, more anything-they-can-get. I am intrigued by others, like Kiva, who I haven’t yet worked out is on the side of the angels, or simply out for what she can get. But be warned, she swears up a storm so if extensive use of the f-word offends you, then this is one to avoid.

Epic sci fi isn’t my favourite sub-genre – too much telling me what I should think… too much earnestness from the protagonists… too many powerful, entitled male characters… And I’m loving the fact that Scalzi has upended every single one of those peeves. His politically dynamic and feisty female characters are a pleasant change. His snarky tone and trick of understating the terrible consequences if the Interdependency fractures at the same time the Flow fails gives this book an almost urban fantasy feel. Will I be getting the next book? Oh yes.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Poisoned Chalice Murder – Book 2 of the Black and Dods Mystery series by Diane Janes #Brainfluffbookreview #ThePoisonedChaliceMurderbookreview

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I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this series, The Magic Chair Murder, set in 1920s England – see my review here – where Frances Black and Tom Dods team up to discover what happened to a woman who disappeared in mysterious circumstances. So I was delighted when this offering became available and I was approved to read and review it.

Tom Dod’s Aunt Hetty is worried – three sudden deaths have occurred in the sleepy village of Durley Dean. They might seem like tragic accidents, but Aunt Hetty isn’t so sure. After all, all three took a stand against Reverend Pinder, the new vicar of St Agnes Church, whose controversial changes have divided the congregation. But is there really a killer among the parishioners? And while Fran leaps at the chance to spend a weekend at Aunt Hetty’s sleuthing with Tom, could the trip prove to be a poisoned chalice in more ways than one?

While the mystery obviously takes centre stage and needs to be successful, for me the added pleasure with this series is the really likeable, intelligent main character, Fran Black. She is compromised, having been deserted by her husband at a time when divorce carried with it a huge social stigma and was difficult and costly to acquire. Her mother is querulous and demanding, having lost both sons in the Great War and while Fran is able to live on a fixed income without having to work, she is more than happy to become involved in the intricacies of an investigation as an escape from her unsatisfactory home life.

Janes is adept at slipping in all sorts of social and political details of the time without holding up the investigation, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I do like the fact that when someone is arrested and charged with murder, Fran and Tom become very aware that if they cannot find the real murderer, an innocent man will hang, which nicely ups the stakes. As with the previous murder mystery, this one owes its inspiration to the likes of Agatha Christie, with plenty of suspects.

I got there before the big reveal, but to be honest, that wasn’t a dealbreaker as it was only a couple of chapters ahead of the denouement and with all the other issues going on relating to Fran and Tom’s relationship – or lack of it – the plot didn’t stand or fall on the mystery alone. The pacing was nicely judged, the characters memorable and I kept thinking what a cracking TV show this would make. In the meantime, I look forward to the next one in the series as I’m keen to see where Janes will take these characters next. Highly recommended for fans of historical cosy murder mysteries. While I obtained an arc of The Poisoned Chalice Murder from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

Teaser Tuesday – 6th November, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog #TeaserTuesday

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Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:

Second Star – Book 1 of the Star Svendotter series by Dana Stabenow

42% The worst thing about Charlie was that I couldn’t slug someone that much shorter than I was and look myself in the mirror the next morning. I began to feel that it might be something I could overcome, given time.
Reaching for a cutting board, she took another, closer look at me, and paused with the knife poised over a green pepper. “You look exhausted, Star. What’s really worrying you?”

BLURB: Earth’s first space colony is overrun by spacepirates, politicians and saboteurs. One person dedicates her life to keeping her beloved colony safe: Esther “Star” Svensdotter. She’s dealt with all kinds of human troublemakers, but the rules change when the colony receives its first contact from aliens.

I’ve read and enjoyed Stabenow’s successful best-selling Kate Shugak series – see my review of Less Than Treason. I’d had this space opera adventure on my Kindle for a while and decided to give it a whirl. So far I’m really enjoying Stabenow’s alternative take on our history, if those pesky aliens hanging out in the Beetlejuice sector really had roused themselves to get in touch…

Interview with JEAN LEE – Author of Fallen Princeborn: STOLEN #Brainfluffauthorinterview #JeanLeeauthorinterview

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I’d like to welcome Jean Lee, author of the recently released Fallen Princeborn: STOLEN which blew me away – see my review here. I’ve been reading Jean’s amazing blog for a while now and it’s always a pleasure so I was delighted to have a chance to chat to her about her writing.

How does Wisconsin inspire you as a writer?

Wisconsin breeds the fantastic.

We are home to peculiar, toothsome beasts like the Hodag, devourer of all-white bulldogs.

We are home to unique, word-some writers like Neil Gaiman: “There’s that tiny off-kilter nature in the Midwest that’s in the details,” he says when asked about writing…

Neil Gaiman says ‘American Gods’ is

rooted in Minnesota-Wisconsin weirdness

The writer found a strange quality in the Midwest that fuels his “American Gods.”

We are home to hidden towns, small growths of community where railroads and highways meet, places that no one finds unless they mean to find it. Picturesque, perhaps? Plainfield was indeed picturesque once—until Ed Gein was arrested in November of 1957. You may know the rest. Basically, Gein inspired many of the fictional horror icons we know today: Norman Bates, Leatherface, and Buffalo Bill are all rooted in the reality of Ed Gein.
We drove through the wild patches between the hidden towns often when I was a child. I never tried to occupy myself with books or toys in the car. There was too much to see, out there in those scattered homesteads, too much to wonder about. What happened inside that dying barn? Why is that gravel drive roped off, and where does it lead? Where are all the people for those rusted cars littering the field?

This is the Wisconsin I live in now. The land dips and rises in unexpected places. The trees may crowd a rural highway so much you can lose yourself driving, only to have the tunnel burst open to sunshine and a white-crested river running beneath a bridge you’d swear had never seen a car before. In the small farming town of my youth, I could stand on the lone highway through town and hear snowflakes land beneath the orange street lights.

Wisconsin is filled with hidden towns, small growths of community where railroads and highways meet, places that no one finds unless they mean to find it. Rock Springs was a town of 600 when I was a child, a little grain-fill stop for the railroad. We didn’t even have a gas station until I turned 5, and our library, a small portion of the town’s community center, could fit in a utility closet (it probably was a utility closet at one point). Farms and wild wood filled the gaps between towns. Unless, of course, you went towards Wisconsin Dells, where the wilderness is trimmed and prepped and ready for its mandatory close-up before the tourist rushes to the proper civilization of water parks and casinos.

We drove through those wild patches often. I never tried to occupy myself with books or toys in the car. There was too much to see, out there in those scattered homesteads, too much to wonder about. What happened inside that dying barn? Why is that gravel drive roped off, and where does it lead? Where are all the people for those rusted cars littering the field?

This is the Wisconsin I live in now. The land dips and rises in unexpected places. The trees may crowd a rural highway so much you can lose yourself driving, only to have the tunnel burst open to sunshine and a white-crested river running beneath a bridge you’d swear had never seen a car before. In Rock Springs, one could stand on the lone highway through town and hear snowflakes land beneath the orange street lights.

Both Charlotte and Liam, the Fallen Prince, are strong, nuanced characters – when you first started writing this book whose story did you most want to tell?

At the outset, the story was all about Charlotte. It was strictly in her point of view, the story opened with more of Charlotte and her sister’s life before boarding the bus, and so on. I wanted Charlotte to escape her wretched life and fly. But once I got her into River Vine, I began to see an ensemble take shape, a family of characters bearing their own shames and despairs, all struggling to free themselves and find hope in the future.

Liam wasn’t much to me at the outset–just a pompous artist who had some growing up to do. It was Arlen, the teacher, that got me to slow down and see what he saw: a kind heart that had been brutalized so often it had forgotten what it meant to feel. The more I drafted, the more I came to see Liam’s inner struggle to grow beyond his cage.

When did you start writing Fallen Princeborn: Stolen?

2010. Yup, that’s a while ago, but life tends to fill the years, and in my case, I had just become a mom. Postpartum depression hit hard. Very, very hard. I felt very cut-off from life. I couldn’t feel the joy of motherhood. I found myself often staring out a window, trapped in walls yet somehow exiled outside of feeling. I’d look upon my sleeping baby and feel nothing but guilt because I couldn’t feel complete with motherhood. Then a friend introduced me to the awesome challenge that is National Novel Writing Month. From November 1st-30th, you are to write 50,000 words of a story not yet started (that’s cheating. Outlines are permissible, though.). The story may need more than 50K words, but what matters is that you reach that length in thirty days.

I swung it that year, and felt AMAZING. I was escaping the trap, driven to feel with characters outside of this world. I couldn’t just sit and dwell on individual lines or plot points—I had to keep going, and because I had to march on in the narrative, I found myself marching on in real life, too. I wasn’t staring out the window waiting for minutes to pass. I was…I was back, you know?

I felt a part of life again, enjoying the touch of my daughter’s tiny hands around my finger and her boundless grey-blue eyes. I reveled in these things. I felt…complete.

How did you figure out the names of your characters?

Charlotte’s name came from a baby book in the long, long, LONG process of choosing a name for our firstborn. After weeks of highlighting and crossing out names, we had narrowed ourselves down to Charlotte and ____. Well, we went with ____ for our kid, so I kept the name Charlotte for my heroine. I’d grown attached to the name over those weeks. It carries both feminine and masculine traits, both delicacy and strength. A perfect fit.

Nature was ripe for names, since this small society has been cut off from the rest of the world for centuries. From this I uprooted names like Poppy, Ember, and even Campion (it’s a kind of rose). Many of the other names I chose after studying The Writer’s Digest Character Naming Sourcebook. I loved having this broad overview of names across various cultures. It’s through this book I discovered names that fit some aspect of my characters’ nature, such as Dorjan—“Dark Man” and Liam—“strong-willed warrior.” It’s important to have names that matter. Be it the history, the meaning, or because my child almost carried it—the name needs to matter.

Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Writing’s a must. When I write, I channel the depression away from my family and into a universe where my characters can fight it.

It’s never completely gone, you know, depression. We can slay it, burn it, bury it—but it never dies. Only by spinning stories can I transplant some of that darkness into villains, heroes, and worlds. From the darkness grows the adventure and the hope.

What has it been like – juggling writing, teaching and three kids?

Three years ago, you may as well have asked what it’s like to juggle three bowling pins with spikes on fire. Back when I was trying to write in bedlam, I stole whatever time I could before dawn. The television usually bought me at least an hour in the day to outline, draft dialogue, or keep up with my blog. The children’s naptime never felt long enough, but I made due.

Once the boys began preschool, I could at least promise myself one hour of writing time a day. Doesn’t sound like much, does it? But that’s the thing about writing and keeping a job and running a household: every minute to write’s a blessing. Sometimes those days crash and burn. Other times—like when the boys didn’t have school—we found other ways to be creative.

Now that Blondie, Biff, and Bash are in school all day, I always have time for writing, be it for the blog, editing, drafting, etc. Granted, summer’s still a trial, but because I didn’t give up on writing when time was scarce, I have many stories to share here in the daylight hours.

What are common traps for aspiring writers?

Research can feel like a big time-suck, but when it comes to publishing, DO YOUR RESEARCH! There are so many scammers out there with their “author services” and “exclusive anthologies.” They’re going to talk you up, make you feel amazing, and before you know it you’ve paid four digits for lousy editing on a slap-dash affair no one’s going to see. Scope out the small presses. Join author groups online to gather recommendations for editors, book designers, and cover artists. Your story deserves to be seen, but when it’s ready.

Yes, an author platform really does help. Don’t think of it as yet another time suck; rather, treat it as the regimented prose exercise. Reading countless other voices, writing tight posts on a regular basis—all helps the craft, not hinders it. No, it’s not the novel you dream hitting the best-seller list, but making a website, commenting on social media—these simple actions give your name an author’s history. Other writers/publishers/agents/readers can trace your name back to studies, comments, and whatever else you write. You build that platform, you build a writer’s resume for the publishing business to see.

What is your writing Kryptonite?

When my sons’ principal calls. Nothing f***s over the creative mindset when you have to come and talk about one son, or the other, or both. Again.

Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?

I do write under a pseudonym, actually. When you’re a preacher’s kid, all your actions and talents are scrutinized—“you play piano just like your mom!” “You sing just like your dad!” “You write just like your father.” “You should be just like your mom and become a teacher.”

There comes a time when you get sick of all the comparisons, and just want to be known for something YOU do, not what your parents do. So when I started my site Jean Lee’s World, I wanted to see who’d like my writing for my writing, NOT because of who I am or whomever I’m related to. Writing under another name’s also allowed me to work through past traumas and current depressions without bringing any family members under fire, which is important to me. These are my demons, not theirs.

How did you begin writing the short stories that accompany your novel?
The short stories began as a writing experiment last year. My husband had been listening to John Carpenter’s Lost Themes, and a story began to shape in my head of a child dying at the hands of a cuddly creature before a dark skulking thing gets involved. When I showed the short story to my publishers, they encouraged me to write more short stories as little introductions to the universe of Charlotte and these imprisoned shapeshifters. Thus Tales of the River Vine was born, with stories following both antagonists and protagonists across the years.

The challenge with such “prequels,” as they are, was to find emotional centers without chipping away at the emotional arc of Fallen Princeborn: Stolen. Take the last story of the collection, “Tattered Rhapsody.” Originally I intended the story to be called “Dirty Charlie,” featuring Charlotte the Wise-Ass taking on some gang members at her high school for profit. Girl’s got to earn bus money somehow, right?

But the story felt wrong. I couldn’t pin it at first. Charlotte’s there, she’s showing her strength, her protective instincts for her kid sister. And yet, the story felt…heartless.
Then it hit me: Charlotte’s heart doesn’t speak with her fists. It speaks with her music.
And just like that, the story’s heart found a pulse, a rhythm both despairing yet defiant. Just like Charlotte.

I hope you enjoy reading “Tattered Rhapsody” and the other Tales of the River Vine and telling me what you think. They’re all FREE on Kindle, Nook, and other publishing platforms!

 

 

 

Sunday Post – 4th November, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

November – really? This year has sped past in a blur. Everyone says that as I get older, the years will go on speeding up. All I can think is that if I make it to my 70s without ending up under the proverbial bus, I’ll probably be unable to function… too giddy with the rate at which my days and weeks are whipping by.

I had a wonderful time at Bristolcon last week, which now feels like a distant memory, but one that is warming with all the friendliness on encountering folk I hadn’t seen for far too long. Thankfully, the journey there and back again on the trains went like clockwork, so Mhairi and I arrived home mid-afternoon on Sunday, having felt like we’d been away for much longer.

This has been another busy week – Himself has spent a fair chunk of it coping with his deafness until we made a major breakthrough on Friday. After syringing his ears yet again – he finally found he could hear. A huge relief – I’m startled at how much it impacted on our relationship with both of us feeling grumpy and insecure because of his hearing loss. It’s lovely to have my funny, witty companion back again.

Other than that, it’s been a week of catching up and teaching – I’m now halfway through this term at Northbrook, which is going well. Poor Tim had to have a toenail removed last Wednesday, so I caught up with Sally instead of teaching him on Thursday. I’ve also been announcing to everyone that I was off this weekend for a writing course – only to discover halfway through Friday that it’s in a fortnight, instead… So not only is Time speeding up, it’s now also playing tricks on me. Thank goodness, I’m not going to be a Timelord – I’d probably have the timeline looping back on itself with the human race heading back towards the Industrial Revolution and good old Queen Victoria’s reign… It is Wednesday, isn’t it? Whatever it is, have a great monthday… week, everyone!

Last week I read:

Survivor in Death – Book 20 of the In Death series by J.D. Robb
The only thing that kept young Nixie Swisher from suffering the same fate as her parents, brother, housekeeper, and young sleepover companion was the impulsive nine-year-old’s desire for an illicit orange fizzy at 2 a.m. Taking the bereft girl under her wing, Eve is determined to make sure the killers don’t get the chance to finish their lethal job. From the first, however, the investigation is baffling. The Swishers were a nice family, living on the Upper West Side in a house with an excellent security system. Ordinary almost to a fault, they seemed unlikely victims for this carefully planned and executed crime. Valuables at the scene were left untouched, there was no sign of vandalism — just the corpses of five people murdered in their sleep.
I tried this series once before, but couldn’t get to grips with it. Himself recommended this particular story – and I was hooked. At last I have fathomed his passion for this series of near-future murder mystery thrillers…

 

Satellite by Nick Lake
Moon 2 is a space station that orbits approximately 250 miles above Earth. It travels 17,500 miles an hour, making one full orbit every ninety minutes. It’s also the only home that fifteen-year-old Leo and two other teens have ever known. Born and raised on Moon 2, Leo and the twins, Orion and Libra, are finally old enough and strong enough to endure the dangerous trip to Earth. They’ve been “parented” by teams of astronauts since birth and have run countless drills to ready themselves for every conceivable difficulty they might face on the flight. But has anything really prepared them for life on terra firma?
Once I got used to the text-prose Lake has used to write this YA space-based adventure, I became engrossed in this powerful and emotional read.

 

A Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan
After Grandmére Ursule gives her life to save her tribe, her magic seems to die with her. Even so, her family keeps the Old Faith, practicing the spells and rites that have been handed from mother to daughter for generations. Until one day, Ursule’s young granddaughter steps into the circle, and magic flows anew. From early 19th century Brittany to London during the Second World War, five generations of witches fight the battles of their time, deciding how far they are willing to go to protect their family, their heritage, and ultimately, all of our futures.
I found this saga, following a family cursed with the gift of magic through the ages, a real page-turner. And the angle Morgan takes on WW2 was fascinating…

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 28th October 2018

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Muse of Nightmares – Book 2 of the Srange the Dreamer series by Laini Taylor

Teaser Tuesday featuring Satellite by Nick Lake

Authoring Annals 3 – Bristolcon 2018

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of arc Fallen Princeborn: STOLEN by Jean Lee

Friday Face-off featuring Secret Seven Bonfire – Book 11 of the Secret Seven series Enid Blyton

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Fury – Book 3 of the Menagerie series by Rachel Vincent

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

Leopard: Fast and Beautiful http://chechewinnie.com/leopard-fast-and-beautiful/ I always look forward to reading Cheche’s fascinating articles on African wildlife and this one featuring leopards is packed full of wonderful pics along with all sorts of information I didn’t know…

Get to Know Ya Book Tag https://readerwitch.com/2018/11/03/different-books/ Alexandra tagged me for this one – thank you Alexandra! – and I loved both the questions and answers.

Winterwood Chapter 1 – Read It Here https://jaceybedford.wordpress.com/2018/11/03/winterwood-chapter-one-read-it-here/ I am two-thirds through Jacey Bedford’s entertaining space opera series, so was delighted to read this start to her fantasy trilogy…

New Poem Featured in Fall 2018 Issue of The Muddy River Poetry Review https://saraletourneauwriter.com/2018/10/31/fall-2018-muddy-river-poetry-review/ Fellow blogger and talented writer Sara Letourneau sent a link to this beautiful poem…

Britain by the Book: The Curious Origins of Mother Hubbard https://interestingliterature.com/2018/11/02/britain-by-the-book-the-curious-origins-of-mother-hubbard/ One of those menacing nursery rhymes we chant to our children, without necessarily thinking too much about those words…

Have a great week and thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Fury – Book 3 of the Menagerie series by Rachel Vincent #Brainfluffbookreview #Furybookreview

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1986: Rebecca Essig leaves a slumber party early but comes home to a massacre—committed by her own parents. Only one of her siblings has survived. But as the tragic event unfolds, she begins to realize that other than a small army of six-year-olds, she is among very few survivors of a nationwide slaughter. The Reaping has begun.

Present day: Pregnant and on the run with a small band of compatriots, Delilah Marlow is determined to bring her baby into the world safely and secretly. But she isn’t used to sitting back while others suffer, and she’s desperate to reunite Zyanya, the cheetah shifter, with her brother and children. To find a way for Lenore the siren to see her husband. To find Rommily’s missing Oracle sisters. To unify this adopted family of fellow cryptids she came to love and rely on in captivity. But Delilah is about to discover that her role in the human versus cryptid war is destined to be much larger—and more dangerous—than she ever could have imagined.

On realising that this was the third book in the series, I broke with my usual habit of crashing midway into a series and got hold of the first two book and read them first. I was quickly swept up in the dark, intense world of Delilah, who is imprisoned and stripped of all her rights as a human after an incident at a local fair reveals her to be a cryptid in Menagerie – see my review here. This book is structured differently, in that it is largely a dual narrative so that as well as following Delilah’s story in first person viewpoint, we also learn a lot more about The Reaping as we go back in time to the event that causes all the fae to be treated so appallingly and track the consequences and fallout through Rebecca’s viewpoint.

I really enjoyed this aspect – having read allusions to The Reaping throughout the previous two books, it was satisfying to learn more about what happened, particularly as these events increasingly begin to link with Delilah’s storyline. It wasn’t until I read this book that I realised just how unusual it is to have a pregnant protagonist, or one who is coping with a newborn baby in fantasy. It was a plus that the subject was really well done.

The new spin on the story prevented this series becoming predictable and repetitive – and I certainly didn’t see that ending coming. It’s been a while since I’ve been quite so poleaxed by the final denouement of a story, but it really works. I would emphasise, however, that this series and book is not suitable for younger teens and is not a YA read, despite the fact that Vincent has written successfully for that age-group. While I obtained an arc of Fury from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

Friday Faceoff – Remember, remember, gunpowder, treason and plot… #Brainfluffbookblog

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and the subject this week featuring on any of our covers is BONFIRE NIGHT, so I’ve selected Secret Seven Fireworks – Book 11 of The Secret Seven series by Enid Blyton.

 

This audio CD edition was produced by Hodder Children’s Books in November 1996. I really like this one. The cover is bright and busy, featuring the children looking happy and positive as they gather material for their bonfire night. And while I usually dislike text boxes running through the middle of a cover, this one has a comforting period feel of the original series, which I loved as a child. This one is my favourite.

 

Published in 2006 by Hodder, I love the bright fire against the black cover – this one looks fantastic in thumbnail. However, I am far less impressed at the full-sized effort, given the children are depicted as cartoons… No! This never happened with Blyton’s books other than the Noddy series and her fantasy stories. So while everything else is in place to make this my favourite – this is a dealbreaker for me.

 

This edition, published by Hodder in 2002, is afflicted with two hefty text boxes in Barbie pink – quite what that colour has to do with a Secret Seven adventure, I’m not quite sure. And looking at the cover, you’d think it was all about a small dog rather than a gang of children who enjoy tracking down villains.

 

Produced by Editorial Notícias in 1978, this Portuguese edition is a far more successful effort. I like the fact the children are dressed in clothes from the 1950s and busy collecting material for the bonfire, clearly enjoying themselves. This gives a great period feel to the cover and it is a close contender for my favourite.

 

This Spanish edition, published by Editorial Juventud in 1964, is another attractive cover – I like the cheeky grin on the girl’s face as she turns towards us and the jaunty angle of the famous Enid Blyton signature in red, picking up the girl’s jumper. And the reason why this one isn’t my favourite is the lack of a background. That grey with a few blobs of green is far too bland to successfully evoke this world-famous series. That’s my opinion – but I’d love to know which is your favourite cover.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Fallen Princeborn: STOLEN by Jean Lee #Brainfluffbookreview #FallenPrinceborn:STOLENbookreview

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Jean Lee writes excellent articles on her blog – slices of her family and writing life that leap off the page. So when she asked me if I would be interested in reviewing her first full-length fantasy book, I jumped at the opportunity. I will be posting her fantastic interview on Monday…

In rural Wisconsin, an old stone wall is all that separates the world of magic from the world of man—a wall that keeps the shifters inside. When something gets out, people disappear. Completely.

Escaping from an abusive uncle, eighteen-year-old Charlotte is running away with her younger sister Anna. Together they board a bus. Little do they know that they’re bound for River Vine—a shrouded hinterland where dark magic devours and ancient shapeshifters feed, and where the seed of love sets root among the ashes of the dying.

This one starts with a bang. I love Lee’s immersive style as we immediately are caught up in Charlotte’s concerns once the bus comes to a stop and the passengers spill out. As well as keeping a firm eye on Anna, her rebellious teenage sister, Charlotte is busy checking out the reason why they’ve broken down… their fellow passengers… their surroundings… the odd behaviour of the local wildlife, particularly a certain raven… It’s clear she has a heightened sense of smell – and that while she is alert and apprehensive, she isn’t afraid. Lee does a masterful job of establishing Charlotte’s difference and concerns from the very first line. I loved her.

The worldbuilding is brilliant. Lee’s snappy prose style gives us a real sense of the surroundings – and thanks to Charlotte’s enhanced olfactory abilities, we not only get to see the world, we get to smell it, too. Once the turning point in the book occurs, Charlotte finds herself in a completely different place with different rules. We get to see her propensity to act first and consider later, even if she isn’t always sure that’s the best strategy. During her troubled and often violent past, this has proved to be successful and it also provides her with release for the simmering anger that drives her. I loved watching her progression as she very slowly starts to let her guard down – only for all her suspicions surge once more when she becomes convinced that she is being double-crossed.

The other main protagonist is Liam, the Bloody Prince, who makes a dramatic entrance thanks to Charlotte’s intervention. He is also an interesting mixture. Imbued with a great deal of innate power, his abilities have been compromised over the years by his tendency to use them for his own baser ends. I really liked this aspect – far too often protagonists pitch up with major abilities they have only used for the greater good, with only the baddies who give in to the darker side… But what if a main character’s upbringing is sufficiently skewed to lead him down some dark paths? Can he pull themselves free of such a compromised past and redeem himself? This is one of the main questions Jean asks.

And the clash of cultures between entitled, mesmerising Liam and embattled, bitter Charlotte ensures that plenty of sparks fly. His assumption that he can schmooze her with his usual mix of flattery and mind-power elicits her contemptuous fury, beginning to make him reconsider what he is doing.

He isn’t the only nuanced, interesting character – all the supporting cast have their own tales. I particularly love Arlen, who had the thankless task of raising Liam and his own gifted and powerful nephew and is still trying to hold everything together.

Those violet-eyed, murdering creatures are also fascinating, with their own tragic stories. Like the grief-stricken, trapped fae who has seen his children blown apart, and is intent on slaughtering any human he can get hold of. While he clearly shouldn’t prevail, I liked knowing why his behaviour is so savage. How refreshing to be sympathetic to the antagonists, especially given what they have done and what they are planning to do to humanity.

After the initial tension-filled opening and flurry of action, the pace eases up as we are given a ringside seat into Charlotte’s struggle to acclimatise and discover exactly what is going on. I didn’t mind – I was hooked. Once the story picked up again, gathering momentum for the final denouement I simply didn’t bother to put this one down. Lee’s spin on some of the classical mythical tropes, such as the Tree of Life and a usurped prince, is beautifully handled. There are a couple of short story collections set in this world, but I am hoping for another full-length book of more adventures in this savage, strange place.

Highly recommended for fans of quality, character-led fantasy.
10/10