Monthly Archives: May 2018

Review of KINDLE Ebook #Scourged – Book 9 of the Iron Druid series by Kevin Hearne #Brainfluffbookreview #bookreview

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I’ve followed this series right from the start, thoroughly enjoying the mayhem and the humour that Hearne has created, so it was with some sadness that I picked up this final book in the series – see my review of the first book, Hounded, here.

Unchained from fate, the Norse gods Loki and Hel are ready to unleash Ragnarok, a.k.a. the Apocalypse, upon the earth. They’ve made allies on the darker side of many pantheons, and there’s a globe-spanning battle brewing that ancient Druid Atticus O’Sullivan will be hard-pressed to survive, much less win.

Granuaile MacTiernan must join immortals Sun Wukong and Erlang Shen in a fight against the Yama Kings in Taiwan, but she discovers that the stakes are much higher than she thought.

Meanwhile, Archdruid Owen Kennedy must put out both literal and metaphorical fires from Bavaria to Peru to keep the world safe for his apprentices and the future of Druidry.

And Atticus recruits the aid of a tyromancer, an Indian witch, and a trickster god in hopes that they’ll give him just enough leverage to both save Gaia and see another sunrise. There is a hound named Oberon who deserves a snack, after all.

This book features the three main protagonists listed in the blurb above and I’m very grateful to the author for providing a ‘story so far’ summary covering the whole series. I just wish other authors writing long-running series would provide similar assistance to their readers. Some of us have the memory of a goldfish…

I started this one with some trepidation – after all, the stakes are high. I have followed this series for the previous eight books and was concerned that if Hearne fumbled this one, it would spoil my experience of the complete Iron Druid series. In the event, I’d need not have worried. All three main characters still are appealing in quite different ways – my personal favourite is Owen, who started out as the archetypal grumpy old man and has considerably mellowed as he continues getting to grips with the modern world. While the apocalyptic Ragnarok loomed across the book – as well it should – there were a whole series of delightful interludes with my favourite being Owens new best friend, Slomo the sloth.

What appears to have split opinion amongst readers is the manner in which the book ends. As for Granuaile’s decision, I was really pleased. I felt it showed her increasing confidence and desire to extend her druidic skills and had a real ring of reality about it which I thoroughly welcome. As for the Iron Druid, Atticus, what befalls him is a real shock, but given the weight of prophecy promising bad things happening to him, I can’t see how this could have ended any better without compromising a major plot point throughout the latter half of the series.

All in all, I think Hearne has produced a thoroughly satisfactory conclusion to an excellent series which I particularly enjoyed as – unlike so many others – it didn’t become unbearably bleak by the end. Recommended for fans of godpunk and epic fantasy with a strong contemporary twist.
9/10

Friday Faceoff – I’m freeeee… #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. This week the theme is a Freebie, where we choose our favourite cover, so I’ve selected Traitor to the Throne – Book 2 of the Rebel of the Sands series bys by Alwyn Hamilton. I loved the story – but I loved the covers even more…

 

This edition was produced by Viking in March 2017. It’s not my favourite, but it’s still a cracking cover. The female archer featured on the cover clearly means business – I like the fact she is shooting straight at us. But what lifts this is that stunning sky and the background with the flock of birds and the city in the distance.

 

Published in February 2017 by Faber and Faber, this is my favourite. I love the eye-catching pink, with that lovely Eastern fretwork acting as a window into this exotic, dangerous world. The distant cityscape is picked out beautifully and I love the night sky with the sickle moon which perfectly complements that wonderful title font. This cover actually made me tingle when I first saw it…

 

This Polish edition, published by Czwarta Strona in July 2017, is another gem. Those lovely swirling patterns and that wonderfully detailed desertscape featuring the silhouette of our plucky heroine and her horse is simply beautiful. For me, what slightly lets it down is the title font, which is rather ordinary by comparison.

 

This Spanish edition, produced by Destino in October 2017 is certainly a lot different to the other covers. Initially I disliked it – but apart from the figures which I still don’t like all that much, the rest of the lovely detail has really grown on me. There is a wealth of lovely detail in the artwork all over the book that has me repeatedly looking at it as every time I do, I see something more.

 

This Serbian cover, published in June 2017, is another attractive, eye-catching offering. The colours are lovely and though it lacks the detailed gorgeousness of the other efforts, the stylised, more simplistic approach has been very well done. It also works effectively as a thumbnail, which is an important consideration these days. So… which of these covers do you like best?

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc #Crimson Ash by #Haley Sulich #Brainfluffbookreview #bookreview

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I thought this a fascinating premise and am always attracted by a YA dystopian science fiction world as a number of them have proved to be interesting and enjoyable reads.

You may live as a soldier or face death. Choose wisely.
Solanine Lucille wants her little sister back. Eight years ago, the government kidnapped her sister Ember, stole her memories, and transformed her into a soldier. But Solanine refuses to give up. Now that she and her fiancé have located the leader of a rebel group, she believes she can finally bring Ember home. But then the soldiers raid the rebels, killing her fiancé and leaving Solanine alone with her demons and all the weapons needed for revenge.

After raiding a rebel camp, sixteen-year-old Ember doesn’t understand why killing some boy bothers her. She’s a soldier—she has killed hundreds of people without remorse. But after she fails a mission, the rebels hold her hostage and restore her memories. Ember recognizes her sister among the rebels and realizes the boy she killed was Solanine’s fiancé.

As you can see, there are some heavy-duty events along with the resultant emotional cost going on in this story. I had thought the sibling relationship would the at the heart of the story. In the event, because this is an action-led adventure rather than all about the characters, while it is an important part of the plot, it doesn’t particularly drive it forward. Apart from anything else, the sisters spend a significant part of the book at cross-purposes with each other.

To be honest, I’m still not completely sure of my response about this one – there is a great deal of action and the world is bleakly awful, with a psychotic monster running the City of Graven. The consequences of existing within such a dark landscape, pervaded by loss are clearly spelt out – alcoholism and suicide are depicted within the story by some major characters and kudos to Sulich for having the courage to depict protagonists who are not invincibly cheerful in the face of hopeless odds against them.

But I did find the plot looped along a pattern, where something bad happens, one of our protagonists is cast down, painfully rallies to the point of fighting back, only for something else bad to happen so that they are cast down, before rallying… And this happened to most of the main protagonists. Fortunately, the final climax broke free from that.

I found the City of Graven really fascinating and would have liked a bit more insight into exactly how it was set up and why. Overall, it was an action-packed, intense read and is ideal for fans of YA dystopian worlds where it’s all about what happens next.
7/10

#Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 16th May, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog

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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 – The Flowers Vashnoi – Book 14.5 of the Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold

 

#science fiction #novella #adventure

 

Takes place the summer after Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance

 

While I’m a fan of short blurbs – this one is very curtailed. However, fans of Bujold’s work, also know this features Ekaterina AND there are butter bugs! So it’s pretty much irresistible really. Needless to say – whatever else is being read at the time – whenever this one goes live, I’ll be gobbling it up.

#Teaser Tuesday featuring #Scourged – 15th May, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog

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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:

Scourged – Book 9 of the Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne
8% The fancy law is the Second Law of Thermodynamics, and it says if ye have an isolated system, then entropy will increase and—gods damn it, let’s just say things turn to shite and be done with it, all right? We can call it the First Law of Owen.

BLURB: Unchained from fate, the Norse gods Loki and Hel are ready to unleash Ragnarok, a.k.a. the Apocalypse, upon the earth. They’ve made allies on the darker side of many pantheons, and there’s a globe-spanning battle brewing that ancient Druid Atticus O’Sullivan will be hard-pressed to survive, much less win.

Granuaile MacTiernan must join immortals Sun Wukong and Erlang Shen in a fight against the Yama Kings in Taiwan, but she discovers that the stakes are much higher than she thought.

Meanwhile, Archdruid Owen Kennedy must put out both literal and metaphorical fires from Bavaria to Peru to keep the world safe for his apprentices and the future of Druidry.

And Atticus recruits the aid of a tyromancer, an Indian witch, and a trickster god in hopes that they’ll give him just enough leverage to both save Gaia and see another sunrise. There is a hound named Oberon who deserves a snack, after all.

As you can see, I’m right at the beginning of this one – and Hearne has done me a great favour by giving ‘The story so far’ roundup to remind me of what the stakes are with this one… I’ve just encountered Owen – see above – who has become my favourite character in this series.

Review of KINDLE Ebook #Talon – Book 1 of the Talon series by #Julie Kagawa #Brainfluffbookreview #bookreview

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It was the fabulous cover of this book that first caught my eye – and the fact it was about dragons, so when I had some money in my hot little hand to spend on books, it was a no-brainer that I would get hold of this offering.

Long ago, dragons were hunted to near extinction by the Order of St. George, a legendary society of dragon slayers. Hiding in human form and growing their numbers in secret, the dragons of Talon have become strong and cunning, and they’re positioned to take over the world with humans none the wiser. Ember and Dante Hill are the only sister and brother known to dragonkind. Trained to infiltrate society, Ember wants to live the teen experience and enjoy a summer of freedom before taking her destined place in Talon. But destiny is a matter of perspective, and a rogue dragon will soon challenge everything Ember has been taught. As Ember struggles to accept her future, she and her brother are hunted by the Order of St. George.

The first thing to say about this one is that it is YA through and through – including a love triangle. So you have the first person viewpoint of a teenage protagonist who is very conflicted. That said, I think she’s probably entitled to be a tad more conflicted than many young heroines in that she is a shape-shifting dragon, who has come to the end of a long and testing training programme designed to allow her to fight an underground war with humanity against the elite Order of St. George. Ember and her twin brother are ostensibly on a beach holiday and mixing with other teenagers who are completely unsuspecting about the true identity of the attractive couple.

Ember is a sympathetic protagonist, despite being a rebel and a rule breaker, because the people looking after her don’t show any affection or compassion. The only person who cares about her is Dante, her brother, who is equally concerned on building a successful career within Talon. I think I would be sneaking out until midnight under those circumstances, too.

I liked the way Kagawa introduces the hidden world of dragonkind within the story. It is deftly done without compromising the pace and is added in bits and pieces as we need to know so that by the end of the book, we have a clear picture of how the dragons operate without humanity mostly being aware of them. For me, the highlight of the book has to be when Ember shifts and flies the coast – an extremely forbidden act. Kagawa’s prose really took off at this point, and I could easily imagine the beauty and power of the flight. Once I was well into the story, I was more or less able to predict where it would end up. There was a twist near the end that I didn’t see coming, but the writing packs a punch and the ending is sufficiently dramatic. Recommended for YA fans who enjoy shape-shifting dragons with some romance.
8/10

#Sunday Post – 13th May, 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.

A shorter week as it was Bank Holiday Monday – which was also my son’s birthday, but for all that it turned into a very busy one. I worked through Monday and finished the main content edit on Breathing Space and now I’ve got a line edit to do and then I’ll be good to go. I’m aiming to release Breathing Space on 26th June.

On Thursday it was my sister’s birthday – and we spent the day working through Tim’s COPE folders ensuring that every piece of paper was signed and all the front pages were correctly cross-referenced, while my long-suffering sister ensured the page numbers were correct. All fiddley and vital – as any mistake could cause Tim to fail. The folder gets sent away on Monday… I felt terrible imposing on my sister like that – but as ever, she was lovely about it. In the evening we went out for a delicious meal at our favourite Chinese restaurant and had intended to come home and watch a nice film – but we dozed off as we were too shattered. On Friday, I taught Tim in the morning and then my writing buddy Mhairi and I travelled up to Haywards Heath to see Lesley Thomson, Elly Griffiths and William Shaw discuss their attitude to their writing in a fascinating three-way interview. It was a delight to touch base with Lesley again, who is such a warm, likeable person and I came away with a hardback, signed copy of her latest book which I’m dying to tuck into…

We travelled to Ringwood yesterday as one of my sister’s dear friends from France is celebrating a special birthday in Fordingbridge with all her family and we are meeting up with our parents for a meal today. All in all, a busy week in the best sense.

This week I have read:

Scylla and Charybdis by Lindsey Duncan
Anaea Carlisle, raised on an isolated space station populated solely by women, believes the rest of the universe has been plunged into anarchy and ruin by an alien-engineered disease known as Y-Poisoning. On a salvage mission, she helps rescue a hypermental named Gwydion who challenges everything she thought she knew.

Forced to flee the station with Gwydion, Anaea finds herself in an inexplicable, often hostile world permanently divided between the Galactic Collective and the Pinnacle Empire. She longs for some place to call home, but first, she’ll have to survive …
This was another unusual, fascinating read by a Grimbold author… They are not kidding when they say they want science fiction with a difference. Highly readable and engrossing – I stayed in bed far later than I should to see what happens next.

 

Obscura by Joe Hart
In the near future, an aggressive and terrifying new form of dementia is affecting victims of all ages. The cause is unknown, and the symptoms are disturbing. Dr. Gillian Ryan is on the cutting edge of research and desperately determined to find a cure. She’s already lost her husband to the disease, and now her young daughter is slowly succumbing as well. After losing her funding, she is given the unique opportunity to expand her research. She will travel with a NASA team to a space station where the crew has been stricken with symptoms of a similar inexplicable psychosis—memory loss, trances, and violent, uncontrollable impulses.
This was another storming read – a psychological thriller set in space, which when done well, works really effectively because everyone is essentially trapped. This one had me on the edge of my seat, with a fantastic action-packed finish.

 

The End of All Things – Book 6 of the Old Man’s War series by John Scalzi
The Colonial Union’s Defence Force was formed to save humanity when aggressive alien species targeted our worlds. Now Lieutenant Harry Wilson has an urgent new mission, as a hostile universe becomes ever more dangerous. He must investigate a sinister group, which lurks in the darkness of space playing different factions against one another. They’ll target both humans and aliens, and their motives are unfathomable.
I spotted this one in the library and immediately scooped it up – I thoroughly enjoyed the Old Man’s War series and wanted to see where Scalzi would take it next.

 

DNF – The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes by Ruth Hogan
It doesn’t happen very often these day – and make no mistake, this is beautifully written with wonderfully portrayed characters – but it is also achingly sad as it deals with children dying. I had a nightmare after starting it and decided not to proceed.

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 6th May 2018

Review of Bound – Book 8 of the Alex Verus series by Bendict Jacka

Teaser Tuesday featuring Obscura by Joe Hart

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring Outcasts of Order – Book 20 of the Saga of Recluce by L.E. Modesitt Jr

Review of The Cold Between – Book 1 of the Central Corps novels by Elizabeth Bonesteel

Friday Face-off – I was asleep when dinosaurs roamed the earth… featuring West of Eden by Harry Harrison

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Obscura by Joe Hart

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

Change in Perspective https://www.spajonas.com/2018/05/11/change-in-perspective/ Indie author S.J. Pajonas explains how a trip to the dentist recently fired up her writing muscle…

Yeah, but, John, if The Pirates of the Caribbean breaks down, the pirates don’t eat the tourists https://lynns-books.com/2018/05/11/yeah-but-john-if-the-pirates-of-the-caribbean-breaks-down-the-pirates-dont-eat-the-tourists/ Lynn featured a really interesting selection of covers during this favourite meme of mine – plus the complete programme of upcoming covers for the next year…

#writersproblems: #technology #grief https://jeanleesworld.com/2018/05/10/writerproblems-technology-grief/ This should not be happening… really!

What is the point of being a nasty reviewer? http://www.keeperbookshelf.com/what-is-the-point-of-being-a-nasty-reviewer Marcy has some interesting things to say about reviewers who do nothing but write rude, demeaning comments about every book they encounter…

Top Ten Tuesday – Purple Cover Lover – http://www.tenaciousreader.com/2018/05/08/top-ten-tuesday-purple-cover-lover/ Lisa has selected all her favourite purple covers – and a wonderful feast for the eyes they are, too.

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 NEGALLEY arc #Obscura by #Joe Hart #Brainfluffbookreview #book review

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I am a sucker for near future crime and recently there’s been so many excellent examples – so when I read the premise for this offering, I immediately requested it. I’m so glad I did…

In the near future, an aggressive and terrifying new form of dementia is affecting victims of all ages. The cause is unknown, and the symptoms are disturbing. Dr. Gillian Ryan is on the cutting edge of research and desperately determined to find a cure. She’s already lost her husband to the disease, and now her young daughter is slowly succumbing as well. After losing her funding, she is given the unique opportunity to expand her research. She will travel with a NASA team to a space station where the crew has been stricken with symptoms of a similar inexplicable psychosis—memory loss, trances, and violent, uncontrollable impulses.

That’s as much of the chatty blurb as I’m prepared to reveal, but the brilliant thing about nefarious scheming on a space ship or station on a planet like Mars – everyone is trapped. Gillian is a brilliant, likeable woman with some profound emotional scars after the tragedy that overwhelmed her family – and unlike most of the others on the ship, she isn’t keen to be in space for a moment longer than is necessary. She takes the decision to stay awake and continue working through the voyage to Mars as she is running out of time to find a solution – when she realises that something isn’t right…

She teeters on the edge of meltdown, as the loneliness, her longing to be back with her sick daughter – and her addiction to the medicine she was taking during her recovery from a serious car crash – all take their toll. So when she begins to feel that someone else is also on the ship, she has to accept the fact that she is losing her mind.

Often, when the intense atmosphere is built up in these types of psychological thrillers, once we learn the reason why our protagonist is in such a lather, the whole episode falls rather flat. It’s why this sub-genre isn’t one my favourites – I’ve been disappointed too often. However, that’s not the case in this tightly constructed, beautifully plotted gem. I loved the whole story arc – including the climactic, action-filled denouement. Plus that final amazing twist… I haven’t read any of Hart’s work before – but I’ll be reading more of it in the future if this is an indication of his writing talent. Highly recommended for fans of futuristic murder mystery thrillers. While I obtained an arc of Obscura from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
10/10

#Friday Faceoff – I was asleep when the dinosaurs roamed the earth… featuring #West of Eden #Brainfluffbookblog #Fridayface-off

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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 we prefer. Lynn and Lynn’s Book Blog nurtures it at present. This week the theme is a cover featuring dinosaur, so I’ve selected West of Eden by Harry Harrison.

 

This cover produced by iBooks in June 2004 isn’t my favourite. I rather like the font, but the image looks like a still taken from Jurassic Park, rather than a specifically designed piece of artwork for a book. There is also far too much chat along the bottom of the book.

 

This edition was produced by Spectre in June 1985 and at least shows evidence of a cover having been designed with more thought. Though I really dislike those great blocks of brown that squeeze the image into a narrow strip so it’s difficult to make out exactly what is going on – which is a shame, because it looks quite interesting…

 

Published in July 1984 by Bantam, this is the first cover that I really like. We get a clear idea of what is going on. And I very much like the way the sun is gleaming through the title font, which is rather funky.

 

This edition, published by Panther Books Limited in July 1985, is my favourite. We get a clear idea that the dinosaurs featured are intelligent with some civilisation – part of the premise of this intriguing fantasy series. I love the warm colouring of the sky which gives us a sense of difference in this alternate history.

 

This Italian edition, produced by Nord in February 1989, provides another interaction between the fearsome lizards and the humans cowering in the forefront of the cover. You get a sense the dinosaur is talking to them, or is he about to eat them? I don’t like the chatter scattered across the artwork – or the border as I can’t see the point and it is particularly unappealing and drab. Which is your favourite?

Review of Library book #The Cold Between – A Central Corps novel by #Elizabeth Bonesteel #Brainfluffbookreview #bookreview

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I picked this one up at the library as I’m still into my space opera reading kick and it looked very promising.

Commander Elena Shaw is in dire need of shore leave and has tagged along with her firm friend Jessica to a bar that was recommended as ideal for visitors wanting a bit of fun, yet off the tourist trail. But when it comes to it – she finds she would rather be back on board and is just considering leaving, when an intriguing man starts to talk to her. A man that snags her interest, to the extent that she is able to ignore the fact that he is wearing the wrong uniform…

Take my advice and don’t read the very chatty blurb, which gives you some of the main plot points designed to draw you into the story – I just hate it when that happens! Instead, I have given just a introduction to the beginning of the first chapter, though, I hasten to add, while there is a significant love interest in this book, that’s not what is powering this vivid, intriguing mystery.

I really loved this one. Elena is an appealing protagonist, who has sufficient history to make her wary of being pulled into situations where she is liable to be hurt again. But this story is as much about Greg, a Central Corp captain who is defined by a tragedy in his past and how in the present he still struggles to put it into context. Of course, if the book was all about somewhat damaged characters staggering from the loves and losses of their past, I wouldn’t be giving this one the time of day – what makes it special, for me anyway, is the fact that it is set in a really intriguing corner of space.

Space opera is all about effective world building that gives a clear idea of the political and socio-economic setup across the galaxy without taking pages of dry information to do so. Bonesteel has this one nailed. Within a short space of time, I had a clear idea of how successful the colonisation attempts were and how effective the various terraforming projects have been – or not. Central Corps is the law enforcement agency that gets wheeled in to deal with events beyond the capability of colonists or the planetary police. As such, they need to be prepared for almost anything. So when something untoward happens to one of the crew, everyone is appalled and very shocked. I liked the fact that it really mattered to all the main characters, despite the fact that death is clearly part of the deal. It meant that the stakes mattered.

I stayed up far too late to find out what happens and burned through this one really quickly as I found it unputdownable. As with most mysteries, the good ones anyway, there were plenty of alternatives on offer as to what was happening before we got to the final climactic denouement, which was every bit as exciting and full of action as I could have hoped for. This one is highly recommended for fans of space opera.
9/10