Monthly Archives: June 2018

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook The Privilege of Peace – Book 3 of the Peacekeeper trilogy by Tanya Huff #Brainfluffbookreview #ThePrivilegeofPeacebookreview

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Himself spotted this was coming out and pre-ordered it. Quite right, too. We both love this series – question is, has Huff managed to tie up all the loose ends satisfactorily, given this is the last one in the trilogy?

Warden Torin Kerr has put her past behind her and built a life away from the war and everything that meant. From the good, from the bad. From the heroics, from the betrayal. She’s created a place and purpose for others like her, a way to use their training for the good of the Confederation. She has friends, family, purpose. Unfortunately, her past refuses to grant her the same absolution. Big Yellow, the ship form of the plastic aliens responsible for the war, returns. The Silsviss test the strength of the Confederation. Torin has to be Gunnery Sergeant Kerr once again and find a way to keep the peace.

For those of you who have read the previous two books, terms like Big Yellow, the Silsviss and Big Yellow will be happy reminders of a strongly depicted world crammed with memorable characters and a twisting plot. However if you are scratching your head because you haven’t yet had the pleasure of this series, then don’t pick up this one – track down An Ancient Peace instead. There is simply too much going on in the longer story arc you’ll miss if you don’t.

Gunny Torin Kerr isn’t actually a gunny any longer – but that is something she tends to remember more clearly than some of those around her. She now heads up a team of Wardens, who are essentially intergalactic policemen, now the war has ended and the Elder Races are keen the job doesn’t get seconded to the military. Indeed, now that the war has ended and the Younger Races, including Humanity, are starting to wonder if they are welcome within the Confederation, now they are no longer fighting on behalf of the Elder Races. It is providing major opportunities for the terrorist organisation Humans First, who very much resent the fact that Humanity is taking orders from other species.

I love this series. Torin’s team are always there to provide plenty of snark and banter, even in the trickier moments – but that feels entirely realistic. Despite the fact we stay focused on the main characters, the wider political situation is always well covered so we know what the stakes are. Which steadily ratchets up during this action-packed book. You need to pay attention, because things are always happening, or about to happen and this book particularly offers plenty of pace and excitement.

The denouement was gripping and held me long after I should have put the book down – and Huff then continued to bring the series to an entirely satisfactory ending – no mean feat, given this is a spinoff from the previously successful Valor series… This series is highly recommended for fans of well told military science fiction – and a must-read for those of you who have read the previous two books.
10/10

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Friday Faceoff – Red is the ultimate cure for sadness… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoff

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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. At present it is being nurtured by Lynn at Lynn’s Book Blog. This week the theme is a cover featuring red, so I’ve selected Red Rising – Book 1 of the Red Rising series by Pierce Brown.

 

This edition was produced by Del Rey in January 2014 and it is the most well known of all the covers – and with good reason as it is eye-catching and iconic. The extended red wing against a black background is very simple, but that doesn’t stop it being beautiful. The title font is a nice reflection of the story as it runs from the bottom to the top of the cover… I love this one.

 

Published in February 2015 by Сиела, this Bulgarian edition is also strikingly eye-catching. Instead of the wing, we have an image of the young rebel, Darrow, all set to rise from the life of slave-slogged drudgery he’d been born into. The image is clever as it also refers to part of the plot and I also like the way the title font fits nicely between the wings.

 

This Portuguese edition, published by Editorial Presença in March 2015, is another strong contender. I love the stylish, imaginative way the wings have been spun around and used as to depict the backdrop, while Darrow is poised at the nexus of the divided society. My one niggle is that there is too much chatter on the cover, spoiling what should be a clean, uncluttered cover to maximise the effect.

 

This Czech edition, produced by Triton in October 2016 is another beautiful effort. I love the addition of the yellow amongst the red – and the effect, which looks a wing, feather or a flame. I also like the chunkier, yellow title font which nicely pops against the red and the complete lack of unnecessary blather to detract from the effective artwork. This is my favourite.

 

This Polish cover was published in March 2014 by Drageus Publishing House and, in my opinion, is the least effective of all the covers. In contrast it comes across as muddled and overworked. It certainly doesn’t stand out as a thumbnail, so it’s fortunate that Red Rising was a worldwide best-seller and didn’t rely on this cover to lure readers to pick it up. Which is your favourite?

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Netgalley arc Drop by Drop – Book 1 of the Step by Step trilogy by Morgan Llywelyn #Brainfluffbookreview #DropbyDropbookreview

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Once again, it was the cover that snagged by attention – and that scary premise of plastic objects melting across the world…

In this first book in the Step By Step trilogy, global catastrophe occurs as all plastic mysteriously liquefies. All the small components making many technologies possible―navigation systems, communications, medical equipment―fail. In Sycamore River, citizens find their lives disrupted as everything they’ve depended on melts around them, with sometimes fatal results. All they can rely upon is themselves.

I enjoyed the fact that we followed the same small band of folks as this disaster unfolds – and the fact that they lived in a small community. I have a fondness for books depicting small-town America… Initially, we quickly jump across a number of folks as plastic starts to dribble, which had me groaning somewhat. I get awfully tired of the apocalyptic convention of jumping into someone’s head, only for them to die in unpleasant circumstances due to whatever badness is coming to swallow the world. Thankfully, that wasn’t what drove this book, which settles down into something else and I think is a problem, especially for fans of apocalyptic sci fi, as this is small-town USA dealing with disaster – except it often wasn’t. It was more about the protagonists getting on with their lives, with the plastic issue sporadically causing a problem.

There is also an issue with narrative time – phones are now called Allcoms, so presumably this is set in a nearish future, which looks very much like right now. And the book was vague about the passing of time, so I couldn’t get a real sense of how long the townsfolk were dealing with the problem and there are no dates accompanying chapter headings to help out the reader.

However, I don’t want you to go away with the idea this was a trudge – I was able to settle down and enjoy most of the story, thanks to Llewelyn’s smooth prose and economical style. I got caught up in the characters’ lives and found the pages turning themselves – until it came to that ending… I don’t like being bounced at the end of a book, which appears to be winding everything up satisfactorily – only to turn it into a sudden cliff-hanger in the final paragraph. While I understand why it was done, it didn’t work. I shouldn’t finish a book feeling so irritated, which is a shame because those issues notwithstanding, overall this was an enjoyable read. Recommended for readers who enjoy their disasters on a very human scale. While I obtained an arc of Drop by Drop from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
7/10

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 27th June, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog #Can’t-WaitWednesday

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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 – Prime Meridian by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

#science fiction

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.

I really like the sound of this one. I really enjoyed The Beautiful Ones – see my review here – this author really knows how to tell a tale, so discovering that she had written a science fiction adventure had me immediately requesting this one.

Teaser Tuesday – 26th June, 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:

Murder Takes a Turn – Book 5 of the Langham and Dupré Mystery series by Eric Brown

64% Greaves said, ‘I’ve had everyone gather in the library, sir.’
‘Very good.’ Mallory consulted his notebook. ‘Let’s have Lady Cecilia Albrighton along first, shall we?’
Greaves left the room and closed the door behind him.

BLURB: A country house weekend in rural Cornwall ends in murder and mayhem for crime-writer sleuth Donald Langham and his wife Maria.

When Langham’s literary agent receives a cryptic letter inviting him to spend the weekend at the grand Cornish home of successful novelist Denbigh Connaught, Charles Elder seems reluctant to attend. What really happened between Elder and Connaught during the summer of 1917, nearly forty years before – and why has it had such a devastating effect on Charles?

Accompanying his agent to Connaught House, Langham and his wife Maria discover that Charles is not the only one to have received a letter. But why has Denbigh Connaught gathered together a group of people who each bear him a grudge?

When a body is discovered in Connaught’s study, the ensuing investigation uncovers dark secrets that haunt the past of each and every guest – including Charles Elder himself …

I picked the Netgalley arc up on a whim, wanting a bit more murder mystery in my life – and so far have thoroughly enjoyed this trip into the past, where murders occur in lovely houses where a number of people have gathered who don’t know or like each other very much…

Review of LIBRARY book Windswept by Adam Rakunas #Brainfluffbookreview #Windsweptbookreview

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I plucked this one off the shelves because I liked the look of the cover – and it is published by Angry Robot, whose books often appeal to me if I’m in the mood for a foot-to-the-floor adventure.

Labour organizer Padma Mehta is on the edge of space and the edge of burnout. All she wants is to buy out a little rum distillery and retire, but she’s supposed to recruit 500 people to the Union before they’ll let her. She’s only thirty-three short, so when a small-time con artist tells her forty people are ready to tumble down the space elevator she checks it out… And that’s when her problems really begin…

I’ve slightly tweaked the rather chatty blurb, but hopefully you get the idea. This is a world where oil has gone and the fuel that now powers the galaxy is derived from sugar cane. This small scruffy outpost grows the stuff in industrial quantities and is sufficiently off the beaten track that a number of folks fleeing the encompassing control of the Big Three – the huge cartels that people are born into and become indentured to – are able to eke out a humble living while being free. However, once those new recruits hit the planet surface, events and Padma’s gritted bloody-mindedness rolls this story forward into a gathering whirlwind of events that doesn’t let up until the last page.

Padma is a force of nature. She just never admits defeat and while there are times when I find I am slightly sceptical that young heroines would be in a position of such responsibility to be at the hub of events powering a book forward, this isn’t the case with Padma. In fact, I’m slightly surprised she isn’t running the Universe. She is a grade-A hustler, with a motor-mouth that could sell rainy days to the Brits and a sharp eye for people’s soft spots. That would make her unbearable if she, too, didn’t have her vulnerabilities – which she does, courtesy of a nightmarish long-haul journey in hibernation, when the hibernating didn’t go quite right… Alongside Padma are a colourful cast of misfits and big personalities, some who are her allies while a fair number are ranged against her – Padma tends to collect a fair number of enemies.

Writing strong characters is one of Rakunas’s strengths – as is depicting a grungy, over-industrialised world where people are trying to rub along as best they can. While the action and non-stop adventure is clearly escapist fun, the underlying themes of community, standing up to injustice and the damage inflicted when the profit line rules is a very familiar message, which bears repeating – kudos to Rakunas for doing so without coming over preachy or ranting about it.

I thoroughly enjoyed this entertaining colony world adventure and it comes highly recommended for fans of well-told, high-octane science fiction action tales.
9/10

Sunday Post – 24th June, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog #BrainfluffSundayPost

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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.

Thank goodness, this has been a far less busy week. Tuesday saw the last Creative Writing class of the term, as we wound up the year at Northbrook College, though thanks to the Bank Holiday, my Monday sessions don’t finish until this week. Fortunately, I have a Poetry Workshop starting this coming Tuesday, which will continue for the next three weeks – I know it’s completely uncool, but I really miss my students once the summer holidays get under way.

I finally made a Fitstep class on Wednesday – my attendance has been atrocious this year, so I am hoping to get there more regularly during the summer months. Mhairi came over on Friday, when we continued with our forays into Marketing – it’s been a real roller-coaster ride, so far – and we also knocked around some plot ideas for her latest project. Yesterday, I spent the afternoon with my sister, who is helping me get more organised with my life – I’m so lucky to have her! When J returned home from his shift, we had a takeaway as a reward for trudging through all that boring admin.

Other than that, I’ve been line editing Breathing Space and preparing it for the wider world. I’m hoping to have it ready for my arc readers by the end of the week. And if anyone else would like an arc, please get in touch. According to my marketing guru, we’re giving Breathing Space a soft launch. I’m also formatting Running Out of Space for the paperback edition.

The weather continues to be awesome – I just wish I was spending more of it out in the sunshine, but that doesn’t stop me loving the heat!

This week I have read:

Outcasts of Order – Book 20 of The Saga of Recluce series by L.E. Modesitt Jr
Beltur, an Order mage, discovers he possesses frightening powers not seen for hundreds of years. With his new abilities, he survives the war in Elparta and saves the lives of all. However, victory comes with a price. His fellow mages now see him as a threat to be destroyed, and the local merchants want to exploit his power.
I was delighted once more to be immersed into this richly detailed world – no one writes fantasy quite like Modesitt and it was lovely to catch up on all that with going on with Beltur and his companions.

 

Drop by Drop – Book 1 of the Step by Step series by Morgan Llewelyn
In this first book in the Step By Step trilogy, global catastrophe occurs as all plastic mysteriously liquefies. All the small components making many technologies possible―Navigation systems, communications, medical equipment―fail.
In Sycamore River, citizens find their lives disrupted as everything they’ve depended on melts around them, with sometimes fatal results. All they can rely upon is themselves.
I haven’t yet written the review to this one – I am still considering my reactions to it. That said, I enjoyed the small town dynamic and the fact we stay with the same characters throughout.

 

My posts during the last week:

Sunday Post – 17th June 2018

Review of A Trail Through Time – Book 4 of The Chronicles of St Mary’s by Jodi Taylor

Can’t Wait Wednesday featuring Truth Sister by Phil Gilvin

Review of Ancell’s Quest by Tony Main

Friday Face-off featuring A Cold Day for Murder – Book 1 of the Kate Shugak series by Dana Stabenow

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Outcasts of Order – Book 20 of The Saga of Recluce by L.E. Modesitt Jr

 

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

Book Blogger Hop No 133: Balancing Work and Blogging https://anightsdreamofbooks.blogspot.com/2018/06/book-blogger-hop-no-133-balancing-work.html?spref=tw Maria’s articles are always worth reading, but I think we are all confronted with this one from time to time…

Life Lessons and Personal Development by Bishop Dr Akwasi Kwarting https://siuquxebooks.wordpress.com/2018/06/23/siuquxebooks-life-lessons-personal-development-akwasi-kwarteng/ Those one-liners that facilely sum up our lives/problems irk me as much as the next man – but the fifth observation in this list has very much resonated with me.

Happy Solstice; Happy Litha! https://charlesfrenchonwordsreadingandwriting.wordpress.com/2018/06/21/happy-solstice-happy-litha/ Like Charles, I love the long, sunfilled days. This year’s marvellous June weather has emphasised the day length, so that I got to see the sun setting at 10 pm – wonderful!

An exploration of art in writing, Part 3: Grief Art Writing https://jane-davis.co.uk/2018/06/20/an-exploration-of-art-in-fiction-part-3-grief-art-and-writing-by-vivienne-tufnell/ Viv is always worth reading – and in this is a fascinating insight into part of her writing process

Best 2018 Pictures from Space http://earthianhivemind.net/2018/06/22/best-2018-pictures-from-space/ Steph reminds us just what exciting times we live in as regards space exploration…

Thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site – and I promise to get back to you as soon as I can!

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Outcasts of Order – Book 20 of the Saga of Recluce by L.E. Modesitt, Jr. #Brainfluffbookreview #OutcastsofOrderbookreview

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And if you’re blanching at the prospect of ploughing through nineteen other books to get to this point – I’m here to tell you that isn’t necessary. This is actually the second in a spinoff series charting the adventure of Beltur. His adventures started in the previous book, The Mongrel Mage – see my review – and these continue in this adventure…

Modesitt continues his bestselling Saga of Recluce with his 20th book in the long-running series. Beltur began his journey in The Mongrel Mage and continues with Outcasts of Order, the next book of his story arc in the Saga of Recluce.

Beltur, an Order mage, discovers he possesses frightening powers not seen for hundreds of years. With his new abilities, he survives the war in Elparta and saves the lives of all. However, victory comes with a price. His fellow mages now see him as a threat to be destroyed, and the local merchants want to exploit his power.

This book does more or less pick up where the previous book left off, and we find Beltur recovering from the effects of his previous adventure and mourning the loss of one of his friends. He is a refugee in a new city, struggling to establish himself and earn as much as he can, as he wishes to settle down with a special someone. However, there are obstacles to his ambition…

If you are in the mood for a foot-to-the-floor adventure, where it is all kicking off at a breathless rate, then this one isn’t for you. Modesitt doesn’t write like that – he slowly builds the world by taking you through his protagonist’s daily routine in every little detail. We learn what Beltur thinks about the worsening weather conditions; how he feels about working at the forge and the Healing House; what he wears; what he likes to eat and drink; who he trusts; what he thinks about having to get up early in the mornings… I’ll be honest, while I enjoy the accretion of all these daily details, there were times when in this book I felt that the pacing had become just a bit a too stuck in the daily rhythm. There are also places where Modesitt’s normally smooth prose is a little rough around the edges. While I’m aware this is an arc and there are liable to be changes, I do hope some of the missing words and repetitions are sorted out before the publication date. That said, it wasn’t sufficient to blunt my engagement with the story and most of the time, I relished once more being immersed in this richly depicted world.

What all that detail means is that when it does kick off – there is a real sense of shock at the violence and the consequences that occur in its wake. I like Beltur and the people around him, although there are times when I’d like to see him a little more grumpy and not so unfailingly good. As a result, the person who I really bonded with, is the healer and emerging mage, Jessyla. I do like the fact she can be quite snarky, at times.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this one – though I recommend that you start with The Mongrel Mage and I’m delighted there is to be a third book in this series. Recommended for fans of epic fantasy. While I obtained an arc of Outcasts of Order from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

Friday Faceoff – Murder Most Foul… #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 is we prefer, at present this meme is being nurtured by Lynn at Lynn’s Book Blog. This week the theme is a cover featuring a murder scene, so I’ve selected A Cold Day for Murder – Book 1 of the Kate Shugak mysteries by Dana Stabenow, see my review here.

 

This edition was produced by Gere Donovan Press in December 2012 and it’s apparent from the design and emphasis on the author font and title, that this is already an established, successful series. That said, while I very much like the chilly landscape, I wonder if that ugly red blob announcing this is the first book in the series really has to be there.

 

 

Published in February 2011 by Poisoned Pen Press, this is my favourite. The snowscape is effectively bleak, while that pool of blood provides a real visual shock – so effective against the stark white snow. I also like the way the red is also introduced into the title font, mirroring the artwork. The overall effect is both eye-catching and eerie – just what you want with a murder mystery set in Alaska.

 

This edition, published by Gene Donovan Books in March 2011, is frankly a mess. Those ugly blocks top and bottom overlaying the artwork merely have me peering through them to try and work out what is going on underneath, thus ignoring the vital author and title font. And when I do focus on the narrow strip in the middle – it’s not even a coherent image. There is a bisected face of the protagonist chopped in half to make way for a vista of a snowy mountain landscape. It seems they are trying to cram onto the cover far too much without executing any of the elements with much thought or care.

 

This Italian edition, produced by Newton Compton in 2011, is certainly a lot better than the previous effort, but has evidently decided to play upon the popularity of the CSI franchise on TV. That would be a smart move if this book was a police procedural with a heavy emphasis on the forensic details of the crime – but it’s nothing of the sort. Instead it focuses on Kate Shugak, an Innuit ex-police officer struggling to cope after a traumatic incident left her professional career in tatters… As a result all that emphasis on CSI merely gives readers the wrong impression about this enjoyable, well-written whodunit. At least the image is suitably eye-catching and effective.

 

This edition, published in December 1998 by Book on Tapes Inc., is my second favourite. I love the simplicity of the cover, which nonetheless conveys the stark setting and Kate Shugak’s isolation really effectively. The font is well designed to be part of the overall artwork and as a result, looks stylishly classy and eye-catching. Which is your favourite?

Review of Ancell’s Quest by Tony Main #Brainfluffbookreview #Ancell’sQuestreview

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I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

To his dismay, Ancell, a timid, dreaming hedgehog, is called to sail in search of someone in terrible trouble, who keeps calling to him in his dreams. Someone whose plight cannot wait – which leads him to the capable sea otter captain of the schooner, Misty Dawn – and a whole series of adventures. At first the frightened landlubber finds life upon the waves difficult, but he soon learns to trust the crew and face the various dangers alongside them…

I was a bit dubious initially, as there was very little preparation to this adventure – one minute we are told that Ancell is plagued by nightmares and the next, we are aboard Misty Dawn and getting to know the crew. It meant that I was bonding with the protagonist whilst in the middle of the adventures – however, despite the uneven pacing and faltering start, as soon as Ancell stepped onto the schooner, the story took off.

It’s apparent that Main has sailing experience as he writes with verve and confidence about life aboard the ship. I found I not only bonded with Ancell, but grew fond of the rest of the crew and enjoyed the humour that their bickering personalities generated. This is an ideal book for children, with lots of action – and consequences. I liked the fact that it didn’t all go smoothly and that one of the main characters suffers a major accident. By the time we hit the halfway stage, I was able to suspend my disbelief about how the adventure started in the first place as the eventful voyage and the interplay between the characters completely beguiled me.

There are plenty of setbacks and once the intrepid voyagers arrived in Australia, I was expecting the rest of the adventure to go like clockwork – but no, the stakes continued to rise and the tension grew. The pirate Laughing Jack and his evil sidekick (I was delighted it was a woman) were very unpleasant and had imprisoned a number of children – it wasn’t made clear what their intended fates were, but it clearly was nothing good. One of my favourite characters has to be Hector, the salt-water crocodile – whose intervention in the story created havoc.

Overall, this is a delightful tale that makes excellent bedtime reading for children – and their parents who probably, like me, stayed up just a bit later with the light on to discover how it all ends.
8/10