*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Wild Dead – Book 2 of The Bannerless Saga by Carrie Vaughn #Brainfluffbookreview #TheWildDeadbookreview

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I loved Vaughn’s YA space opera adventure Martians Abroad – see my review here – so when this one popped up on Netgalley, I immediately requested it and I’m so very glad I did…

A century after environmental and economic collapse, the people of the Coast Road have rebuilt their own sort of civilization, striving not to make the mistakes their ancestors did. They strictly ration and manage resources, including the ability to have children. Enid of Haven is an investigator, who with her new partner, Teeg, is called on to mediate a dispute over an old building in a far-flung settlement at the edge of Coast Road territory. The investigators’ decision seems straightforward — and then the body of a young woman turns up in the nearby marshland. Almost more shocking than that, she’s not from the Coast Road, but from one of the outsider camps belonging to the nomads and wild folk who live outside the Coast Road communities. Now one of them is dead, and Enid wants to find out who killed her, even as Teeg argues that the murder isn’t their problem. In a dystopian future of isolated communities, can our moral sense survive the worst hard times?

Post-apocalyptic society is slowly recovering, though with far less resources. As far-flung communities live hard-scrabbled lives by scavenging and living off the land, law and order is imposed by travelling investigators. Enid is one such investigator, paired with a newbie and on a straightforward assignment that should have her returning home for the birth of a longed-for baby. And then, just as they are in the process of wrapping up the issue that brought them to Estuary, a dead body is found, washed up on the mud flats…

The world is beautifully depicted through Enid’s first person viewpoint. I felt the humidity, the reek of the mud and got to know the shocked, cagey characters living there. They were already wary of investigators due to a twenty-year-old scandal involving one of the women cutting out her birth control implant – a major infraction in a society where resources are so very scarce and birth rates are rigidly controlled to ensure no one starves. Even after all this time, Neeve is still ostracised by her neighbours and banished to Far House, where she lives with others who don’t really fit in. So no one is freely talking the investigators and Enid is left with a sense that there is something else going on…

This is a cracking whodunit. Enid is a sympathetic, capable protagonist with years of experience behind her and yet yearning to return home in time to be there at the birth of the baby – a baby that her efforts have helped to bring into being by earning the banner that allows her family to reproduce. She is further hampered by her raw new partner, who pounces on a pet theory and won’t let it go. The tension rises, along with the stakes, as Enid is determined to discover who the unknown young woman is and why she has been murdered. I picked this one up and couldn’t put it down until I reached the end. Though I had guessed part of the puzzle, I was still shocked to discover the perpetrator. Highly recommended for fans of science fiction murder mysteries. While I obtained an arc of The Wild Dead from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
10/10

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Friday Faceoff – When icicles hang by the wall… #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 theme this week featuring on any of our covers is ice and snow. I’ve selected The Ice Dragon by George R.R. Martin.

 

This edition was produced by Starscape Books in October 2017 has a great font and a lovely illustration of a dragon. So why they decided to squash that glorious artwork into a small box in the middle of the cover and surround it with a midnight blue block defeats me. What a shame.

 

Published in October 2014 by Tor Teen, this glorious cover doesn’t make such a fundamental mistake. A fabulous dragon, all ice and fury – it makes me shiver just looking at it. It is matched by that beautifully shaded font which perfectly captures the mood and content of the book, while also easy to read. This is my favourite cover today. In fact, this has to be right up there as one of my all-time favourite covers, along with that wonderful cover for Green Rider by Gollancz I discovered a few weeks ago…

 

This Spanish edition, published by Montena in October 2012, is another well crafted effort. The artwork makes this version more of a wyrm rather than the icicled, spiky creature of air and blizzard depicted on the previous Tor Teen cover. While I don’t like it as much, it is still a strong cover.

 

This German edition, produced by CBJ is another wonderful effort. I love the way we have the dragon in mid-wingbeat, so that the wingtips sweep across the top of the cover. And that wonderful font is also a joy. This week’s covers have set the bar very high!

 

This is another German cover published by CBJ in 2009. Again, the artwork and detail is beautiful with lovely shades of blue and the orange font is attractive and really pings against the icy artwork. The only thing against this one is that ugly gold blob in the middle, which rather spoils the effect. I’ll be fascinated to see what your favourite cover is this week – there are so many really strong contenders in this selection that I think it’s purely down to personal preference.

Review of KINDLE Novella All Systems Red – Book 1 of the Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells #Brainfluffbookreview #AllSystemsRedbookreview

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I’d heard nothing but good about this novella and the author, so treated myself with a hoarded voucher – and I’m very glad I did…

In a corporate-dominated spacefaring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids, for their own safety. But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn’t a primary concern. On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied ‘droid — a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as “Murderbot.” Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is. But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it’s up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth.

I love the snarky, cynical voice of the android protagonist, whose sharp-edged narration is in response to a previous traumatic incident, which has led to it calling itself Murderbot. Wells has managed to nail the weary acceptance of a life of drudgery and mistreatment – it is genuinely shocking when it casually mentions that some of the groups it has guarded have instructed the SecUnits shepherding them to fight each other. So it is very taken aback that this particular group of humans insist on treating it as a sentient being with feelings – and continue to do so. I also like the fact its hard-boiled façade abruptly disappears when it is looking after a badly injured scientist.

Wells’ narration is both skilful and engrossing as the troubling events start stacking up into a full-blown emergency. And this disillusioned, basic-model SecUnit is all that is keeping a frightened band of scientists alive in the face of overwhelming odds… The steady increase in tension is very well handled and I became engrossed in this memorable colony adventure.

My biggest grumble is that I wanted more – and it is an abiding problem I have with most novellas. Just as I am fully immersed into the world and the story-telling, it all comes to an abrupt end far too soon.
Highly recommended for science fiction fans – especially those who enjoy colony planet adventures.
9/10

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 18th July, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog #Can’tWaitWednesday

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40276268 – vintage old pocket watch and book

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week’s Can’t Wait offering – Kindred Spirits – Book 5 of the Gabriel Ash and Hazel Best series by Jo Bannister

#cosy mystery

A kidnap attempt outside the school gates in broad daylight convinces Gabriel Ash that his renegade wife is trying to steal their sons from him. Only the intervention of his friend Constable Hazel Best kept them safe. It’s a simple if alarming explanation, but is it the truth? Hazel uncovers disturbing information about another crime, the repercussions of which are still threatening innocent lives seventeen years later.

Once again Hazel finds herself at loggerheads with her superiors. Did they really conspire to protect a murderer? And this time she isn’t getting the support she needs from Ash. She’d thought they were kindred spirits: now she’s not sure what his motives are. One thing is certain: with her life in imminent danger, Hazel’s going to need friends like never before …

I enjoy cosy mysteries and I liked the sound of this one, so requested it on Netgalley – and found I’d done my regular trick of crashing midway into a series. Never mind… it’s a while since I’ve enjoyed a whodunit and I’m really looking forward to tucking into this one during the summer holidays.

Teaser Tuesday – 17th July, 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:

Redemption’s Blade: After the War by Adrian Tchaikovksy

24% The very presence of the Kinslayer, over years of occupation, had twisted the terrain to fit his inner nature. Everything was poisonous or jagged or hideous. But perhaps he had looked on all of this and counted it as beautiful. Perhaps it was a comfortable home to the Yorughan.
“No,” Nedlam told her. “I mean, look at it. Can’t even sit down without getting a sharp rock up your arse. Better than below, though.”
“Always better than below,” Heno agreed. By then they were in Bleakmairn’s shadow, waiting to see if the occupants would greet them with arrows.

BLURB: Ten years ago, the renegade demigod known as the Kinslayer returned. His armies of monsters issued from the pits of the earth, spearheaded by his brutal Yorughan soldiers. He won every battle, leaving burnt earth and corruption behind. Thrones toppled and cities fell as he drove all before him. And then he died. A handful of lucky heroes and some traitors amongst his own, and the great Kinslayer was no more.

Celestaine was one such hero and now she has tasked herself to correct the worst excesses of the Kinslayer and bring light back to her torn-up world. With two Yorughan companions she faces fanatics, war criminals and the monsters and minions the Kinslayer left behind as the fragile alliances of the war break down into feuding, greed and mistrust. The Kinslayer may be gone, but he cast a long shadow she may never truly escape.

I am loving this one. The premise is that the heroic battle has been fought, complete with maniacal despot intent on world domination at all costs… engineered monsters and twisted mutants… a rampaging dragon… And now we are in the happily ever after. Though it’s not turning out to be quite as happily as those epic stories would have you believe.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Fawkes by Nadine Brandes #Brainfluffbookreview #Fawkesbookreview

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This offering came to my attention due to the excellent cover and really intriguing premise. As I knew a bit about the historical facts surrounding this turbulent time, I was interested to see how Brandes tackled it and integrated the magical elements.

Keepers think the Igniters caused the plague. Igniters think the Keepers did. But all Thomas knows is that the Stone Plague infecting his eye is spreading. And if he doesn’t do something soon, he’ll be a lifeless statue. So when his Keeper father, Guy Fawkes, invites him to join the Gunpowder Plot—claiming it will put an end to the plague—Thomas is in.

This is part of the chatty blurb, but you’ll gather there are two major magical factions. Both believe absolutely that their viewpoint is right and that if they don’t prevail, disaster will overtake the country. This point of view also sums up the attitudes of the religious differences prevailing at the time, which was the underlying cause of the Gunpowder Plot and is a nifty way of generating added interest in the religious divide that fractured the country for generations, but that our modern secular society finds difficult to understand. However, I did find it a bit of a problem. While I knew all about the differing beliefs of the Catholics and Protestants of the time, I wasn’t clear exactly how the colour system of magic operated. As James, the main protagonist, isn’t a magic-user, he doesn’t have an intimate knowledge of how it works and while I realised that white magic is the dealbreaker, I wasn’t sure what happened with the likes of teal and crimson, for instance. I was able to let this go for the sake of the story, but I did feel it was a weakness.

James’ determination to search out his absent father and persuade him to craft him a mask which would allow him to access his magical ability, snagged my sympathy – especially as that father happened to be Guido Fawkes. And once James tracks down his father, as we already know, his problems are only beginning. Elements from the actual plot are woven into this tense historical thriller, which I really enjoyed. But the character who really stole the show for me was Emma.

Personally, I would have preferred to have had the story told from her viewpoint as I think she was a stronger, feistier character who pinged off the page and whose story arc is more interesting than James. The problem with James is that he is only ever on the edge of the plot and spent much of the story grappling with the plague. I felt that Brandes got a tad overwhelmed with the sheer richness and complexity of the elements in her story and consequently, there was a stronger, more coherent version struggling to surface.

Nonetheless, Brandes is clearly a skilful, capable writer with an interesting tale that has had me pondering many of the elements since I finished reading it. Recommended for readers interested in fantasy with a historical twist. While I obtained an arc of Fawkes from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
7/10

#Sunday Post – 15th July, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog

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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.

This has been a busy week. On Tuesday, I completed my Poetry Workshop short course, which was a real success despite the sweltering conditions. It was such a treat being able to teach specifically for the poets and as ever, I was blessed with a class full of enthusiastic, engaged writers eager to have a go. On Wednesday I resumed my Pilates and Fitstep class and realised just how very unfit I have become on Thursday when I staggered out of bed aching in places I didn’t know I had muscles. On Thursday evening, I attended West Sussex Writers for an excellent talk and workshop on the craft of short story writing given by Juliet West and Claire Fuller. It was so nice to to catch up with other club members as I haven’t been able to attend for a few months.

On Friday, I took my sister with me when visiting my daughter and newest granddaughter. What a difference a week makes… Baby Eliza, now nearly a fortnight old, is clearly thriving as she was trying to focus on us. It was lovely finally to have a few unhurried cuddles and get to know her. This weekend we are having the grandchildren, so I did the school run and brought them home. After the long, hot journey, we went to the beach as the sun was setting, walked along the damp sand and cooled down, ready for bed. On Saturday we went shopping, after all, pocket money needs to be spent…

And this Sunday is a very special day. It’s the day the film premiere of Hoodwinked Three: This Time It’s Personal, which Tim wrote and starred in as a time-travelling Robin Hood and we spent a chunk of last year writing, editing and filming as part of his studies. I am really looking forward to meeting up with the delightful youngsters that made up the cast, again and watching the film on a large screen.

This week I have read:

Prime Meridian by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Amelia dreams of Mars. The Mars of the movies and the imagination, an endless bastion of opportunities for a colonist with some guts. But she’s trapped in Mexico City, enduring the drudgery of an unkind metropolis, working as a rent-a-friend, selling her blood to old folks with money who hope to rejuvenate themselves with it, enacting a fractured love story. And yet there’s Mars, at the edge of the silver screen, of life. It awaits her.
This near-future novella is riveting examination of a bright, ambitious woman trapped in a dead-end existence and battling for a way out. I found it an engrossing, memorable read.

Fawkes by Nadine Brandes
Keepers think the Igniters caused the plague. Igniters think the Keepers did. But all Thomas knows is that the Stone Plague infecting his eye is spreading. And if he doesn’t do something soon, he’ll be a lifeless statue. So when his Keeper father, Guy Fawkes, invites him to join the Gunpowder Plot—claiming it will put an end to the plague—Thomas is in.
The colour magic and spread of the stone plague adds an intriguing twist to this turbulent time in history. I really liked the fact that Brandes includes a number of facts that surrounded The Gunpowder Plot.

 

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 8th July 2018

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Earth and Air – a novella prequel to the Earth Girl series by Janet Edwards

Teaser Tuesday featuring Fawkes by Nadine Brandes

Dying for Space Giveaway ENDS TODAY

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Prime Meridian by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

My Top Ten Favourite Reads of 2018 So Far…

Friday Face-off – There’s more of gravy than grave about you… featuring The Ghost Brigades – Book 2 of The Old Man’s War series by John Scalzi

Review of Breach of Containment – Book 3 of the Central Corps series by Elizabeth Bonesteel

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

A quote for readers… https://powerfulwomenreaders.wordpress.com/2018/07/13/a-quote-for-readers/ I really loved this – it sums up my feelings about certain books so accurately.

Blood Moon 2018: Total Lunar Eclipse on July 27 https://earthianhivemind.net/2018/07/13/blood-moon-2018-total-lunar-eclipse-july-27/ I was really excited to read about this one – we come within the band that gets to see the second half of it

The 2018 Blogoversy: Nine Favorite Writing Tips of All Time https://saraletourneauwriter.com/2018/07/11/2018-blogoversary-nine-favorite-writing-tips/ Sara writes a series of indepth articles on the craft of writing, so there are worth reading

Speculative Fiction Showcase: Kristell Ink Sci-fi anthology launch in Waterstones… http://indiespecfic.blogspot.com/2018/06/kristell-ink-sci-fi-anthology-launch-in.html?spref=tw I was startled to see yours truly in a mirror arriving at the Waterstones launch at Oxford – and delighted to read Jessica’s account of the evening.

When the Book Isn’t Better https://marvelatwords.wordpress.com/2018/07/09/when-the-book-isnt-better/ Wendleberry lists the books that she found disappointing after seeing the film – do you agree with her choices?

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

Review of Library book Breach of Containment – Book 3 of the Central Corps series by Elizabeth Bonesteel #Brainfluffbookreview #BreachofContainmentbookreview

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I’ve read and enjoyed the previous two books in this engrossing, action-packed space opera adventure and very much looked forward to getting hold of this third book.

Hostilities between factions are threatening to explode into a shooting war on the moon of Yakutsk, and the two major galactic military powers, Central Corps and PSI, have sent ships to defuse the situation. But when a strange artefact is discovered, events are set in motion that threaten the entire colonized galaxy – including former Central Corps Commander Elena Shaw.

You can pick this one up and get involved in the adventure without reading the previous two books, but in order to get the very best out of it, I recommend that you go looking for The Cold Between and Remnants of Trust. Not only do these previous books give you a great insight into the world, Bonesteel tends to write her characters with layers and you will miss out on a fair amount if you aren’t aware of some key moments in their backstory.

It was with great pleasure and anticipation that I found myself back in this riven world, where the colonies, Earth, their appointed peacekeepers – the Corp and the shadowy PSI are all at odds with each other. And that doesn’t factor in some of the worrying moves made by a major terraforming mega corporation. So there is a complicated political standoff where tensions are running high. I love the way that Bonesteel juxtaposes these large major concerns with the issues in the lives of her major characters. As ever, the stage is set for a major adventure to kick off – and this time the domed human settlement of Yakutsk is the hub where the action initially begins. However, it isn’t where it ends…

The plot rackets along at a fair lick, which each character in this multi-viewpoint story giving their slice of the adventure. As ever, my main attention is snagged by the two main protagonists, Elena and Greg, who have been at the heart of the story since the first book. But I also really enjoyed learning more about Admiral Herrod, who was one of the main antagonists in the previous book. I always appreciate a writer who gives me a villain who isn’t your typical evil character, but someone trying to do the best they can while making morally wrong decisions along the way – which is the case for most of the ‘bad’ people I’ve encountered in my own lifetime.

This adventure held me until the end and in places really pulled at my heartstrings – it will be a long time before I forget the scene where Greg accompanies Captain Bayandi on his final mission… All in all, this was another storming addition to an excellent series. I note, with hope, that the ending leaves the way open for more adventures – so fingers crossed, Bonesteel is even now, planning the next slice in Greg and Elena’s lives. Highly recommended for space opera fans.
9/10

Friday Faceoff – There’s more of gravy than ghost about you… #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 theme this week to feature on any of our covers is ghosts. I’ve selected The Ghost Brigades – Book 2 of the Old Man’s War series by John Scalzi.

 

This edition was produced by Tor Books in May 2007. ‘Spaceships, baby!’ has become the warcry for my marketing maven and I when designing a new cover for my space opera adventure series. But these ships are completely overwhelmed by the huge blocky title and author fonts and the chatter cluttering up the artwork. I don’t think this one works at all.

 

Published in June 2008 by Minotauro, I think this Spanish edition is really clumsy. I don’t like the stylised treatment – while those savage-looking space-warriors look suitably threatening, that green sky doesn’t sit well with me. While that horrible yellow blob as a background to the title font is completely unnecessary.

 

This Tor edition, published in November 2015, is a classic science fiction cover featuring a cool spaceship against a huge half-ruined world. The detail is lovely, yet there definitely a feeling of menace. I really like this version – it’s my favourite. Spaceships, baby!

 

This Romanian edition, produced by Nemira in February 2016, is all about the lethal space warrior. However, he does look disturbingly like the Borg in Star Trek. I don’t like the boring font and the chatter across the top of the cover, either.

 

This cover, published in November 2007 by Subterranean Press, is again featuring the genetically formulated soldiers. I don’t know how anyone without prior knowledge of the series would know this is military science fiction, instead of horror. And Scalzi’s name merges into the cover background, which completely vanishes when the cover is a thumbnail. Which is your favourite?

My Top Ten Favourite Reads of 2018 So Far… #Brainfluffbookblog

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Now that we are more than halfway through 2018, what are my standout reads? So far this year, I’ve read 73 books and in no particular order, my top 10 favourites of the year so far are:-

The Stone Sky – Book 3 of The Broken Earth trilogy by N.K. Jemisin
This whole series blew me away. The extraordinary viewpoint and the worldbuilding that takes a science fiction premise and pushes it right to the edge. It has an epic fantasy feel with a strong family dynamic and remarkable characters – and perhaps most important, concluded this series with sufficient drama and conviction.

 

 

The Hyperspace Trap by Christopher G. Nuttall
This space opera adventure, set on an intergalactic cruise-ship liner, was an unusual and riveting setting for this alien encounter. I liked the fact that the protagonists came from both the crew and passengers and enjoyed the growing tension as things slid away into a major emergency.

 

 

Blunt Force Magic by Lawrence Davis
I loved this one. A half-trained apprentice with loads of ability and no finesse finds himself having to stand against formidable antagonists. The chippy narrator and gritty take on this well-trodden path made this a memorably enjoyable read.

 

 

The Bitter Twins – Book 2 of The Winnowing Flame trilogy by Jen Williams
I’ve been a fan of Williams’ vibrant, energetic prose since I picked up The Copper Promise, but this one is an awesome braiding of both science fiction and fantasy. No mid-book slump here!

 

 

 

The Cold Between – Book 1 of the Central Corps novels by Elizabeth Bonesteel
This space opera focuses on the characters with ferocious intensity and we get a ringside seat as layered, plausible people grapple with their own lives in amongst the stars. Needless to say, there is also politics, greed and the need for revenge and love blended to make this one unputdownable once I’d started.

 

 

The Green Man’s Heir by Juliet McKenna
This is one of the reading highlights of the year so far. Set in England and steeped in the myths and folklore of this ancient land, the story follows the fortunes of a half-dryad man trying to trace his lineage. Needless to say, he is pitchforked into the middle of something dangerous and old…

 

 

 

Head On – Book 2 of the Lock In series by John Scalzi
I loved the first book in this futuristic crime series, Lock In, where victims of a terrible illness leaving them completely paralysed are able to upload their consciousness into robotic bodies. Our protagonist is now working for the police, investigating the murder of a sporting star, who plays a savage version of American football. Mayhem and action all the way…

 

 

 

Before Mars – Book 3 of the Planetfall series by Emma Newman
I’ve loved every one of these stories – and this one charting the fortunes of a woman newly arrived on a Martian outpost is another riveting read. It’s rare that motherhood is examined with any depth in science fiction stories – yet the protagonist has left a baby behind and is grappling with feelings of guilt and inadequacy. There is a terrible twist that those who have read the previous two books are waiting for…

 

Child I by Steve Tasane
You won’t have read anything quite like this one. The cover alone tells you it is something different – and yet I plunged into it, thinking it was set on a near-future, post-apocalyptic Earth. I was devastated to learn it is set right now and based on the testimonies of children alive today…

 

 

 

All Systems Red – Book 1 of the Murderbot Diaries novella series by Martha Wells
Hard enough to write a well-paced novella – writing convincingly as a security robot assigned to keep scientific teams out of harm is far more difficult. Yet Wells triumphantly pulls it off. A marvellous read – I just wish I could afford to read the rest of the series…

 

 

There were other near misses it hurts to omit – Isha Crowe’s quirky Gwithyas: Door to the Void, L.E. Modesitt’s Outcasts of Order and Children of the Shaman by Jessica Rydill to name but three. What about you – what are your favourite reads of the year, so far?