Monthly Archives: December 2018

Monday Post – 10th December, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog #NotaSundayPost

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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 week has been a busy one, winding up my Creative Writing class and teaching Tim until after Christmas. I am hoping that during the break I can regain my health and stamina. My wonderful writing buddy, Mhairi and I also completed our tax returns – she comes over and we tackle them together, which makes the whole process a lot more fun and a lot less scary. It was one of those chores we’d planned to do much earlier this autumn, but I’d had to postpone as I wasn’t feeling well enough.

Other than that, I’ve started buying Christmas and birthday pressies as far too many family members saw fit to get themselves born in December, including my mother, daughter and number one grandchild. This weekend I had the grandchildren stay over for the first time in over two months – it will be the last time I’ll see them before Christmas – and we had a great time. We all went shopping yesterday morning, started decorating the house in the afternoon and went out for a Chinese meal at our favourite restaurant in the evening. So Sunday morning we spent a lazy morning recovering, before Oscar tackled the Christmas tree, while Frankie experimented with different looks. It seemed far too soon that I had to load them back into the car, ready to take them home yesterday afternoon and then sank onto the sofa, too tired to move for the rest of the evening. Hence being a day late…

Last week I read:

Ichor Well – Book 3 of the Free-Wrench series by Joseph Lallo
Ever since Nita Graus left her homeland and joined the crew of the Wind Breaker, the reputation of the airship and its crew has been growing. The destruction of the mighty dreadnought, the escape from the legendary Skykeep, and the inexplicable ability to remain hidden from the ever-watchful eye of the Fug Folk have combined to make her and her fellow crew the stuff of legend. Alas, legendary heroes cannot exist for long without attracting a worthy villain. Luscious P. Alabaster strives to be just that foe.
This steampunk adventure is great fun – though it’s a real shame that I mistakenly tucked into the third book in the series. However, I’ll be backtracking to the first two books, because I really enjoyed this one.

 

Six of Crows – Book 1 of the Six of Crows series by Leigh Bardugo
Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price–and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…
I’d heard so much about the criminal underworld fantasy adventure, so decided to give it a whirl as a break from all the science fiction I’ve recently been reading. And I’m so glad I did as I thoroughly enjoyed it.

 

 

An Easy Death – Book 1 of the Gunnie Rose series by Charlaine Harris
Set in a fractured United States, in the southwestern country now known as Texoma. A world where magic is acknowledged but mistrusted, especially by a young gunslinger named Lizbeth Rose. Battered by a run across the border to Mexico Lizbeth Rose takes a job offer from a pair of Russian wizards to be their local guide and gunnie.
I was wittering at Himself about this one and next thing I knew – he’d bought it for me… And Himself, of course – I love it that we often love the same books. We certainly both thoroughly enjoyed this one. Lizbeth’s first person narration during the variety of adventures that engulf her during a particular job had me thoroughly rooting for her. She is feisty, tough and smart and yet doesn’t come off as a Mary Sue. I found it hard to put this one down until I’d finished it.

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 2nd December 2018

Review of Eye Can Write by Jonathan Bryan

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Murder in the Dark – Book 6 of the Ishmael Jones series by Simon R. Green

Friday Face-Off featuring The Lost Hero – Book 1 of The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan

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

Fragment(s): Monday Maps and Diagrams (Science Fiction) 12/3/18 – Mark S. Geston’s Lords of the Starship (1967) https://sciencefictionruminations.com/2018/12/03/monday-maps-and-diagrams-science-fiction-12-3-18-mark-s-gestons-lords-of-the-starship-1967/
This is a quirky post about the sci fi equivalent of those fantasy maps that are so common – and it’s worth clicking on the link that gives you access to loads of others…

Top Ten Tuesday – Welcome to the Comfort Zone https://lynns-books.com/2018/12/04/welcome-to-the-comfort-zone/ Lynn’s Book Blog is one of my regular go-to visits as I love her often quirky approach and consistently high quality reviews. This list was a real treat…

Wildlife destinations in Africa that you need to check out http://chechewinnie.com/wildlife-destinations-in-africa-that-you-need-to-check-out/ This is another site I regularly check in on – the facts and fabulous pics are a real pick-me-up on a dank December day.

Write a Winter Haiku & Get the Kids Writing Too – “Snowfalls” (Haiku from MY MAINE by Bette A. Stevens https://4writersandreaders.com/2018/12/04/s-writing-too-snowfalls-haiku-from-my-maine-by-bette-a-stevenswrite-a-winter-haiku-get-the-kid/ A lovely example of a popular verse form.

The Captain’s Log – the egg (Andy Weir) https://thecaptainsquartersblog.wordpress.com/2018/12/04/the-captains-log-the-egg-andy-weir/ The Cap is a great reviewer with decided views – and in this article he provides a link to a gem of a short story by Andy Weir of The Martian fame. I loved it…

In the meantime, many thanks for taking the time to comment, like and visit my blog and have a great week.

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Friday Faceoff – A hero is somebody who voluntarily walks into the unknown… 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 a HERO, so I’ve selected The Lost Hero – Book 1 of The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riodan.

 

This edition was produced by Disney-Hyperion Books in October 2012. I really like this cover featuring a wonderful steam-driven dragon, which rightly has pride of place in the middle of the cover. The green light suffusing the backdrop ensures the metallic colouring is nicely thrown into relief. The title and author fonts are clear and inoffensive, if a tad boring, but this cover is a strong contender – even if said hero doesn’t feature all that much.

 

Published in October 2011 by Puffin, this is a really dramatic offering. The steampunk dragon is still featuring – but the lower half of the cover is given over to the young hero plunging towards the ground. It is a startling, eye-catching image. Unusually, the series details are given more emphasis than the title or even the best-selling author. While this is unquestionably a dramatic cover, it doesn’t look so effective in thumbnail.

 

This Italian edition, published by Mondadori in September 2017 has featured the lost hero of the title. The silhouette of the slumped figure depicts utter despair. With the birds pouring out of him as he dissolves, it is an arresting image that snags attention. I would love it even more, but for the fact that it fades into black both top and bottom. This means the artwork only extends over half of the cover, which is a shame, given how brilliant it is.

 

Produced by Boekeri in September 2012, this Dutch edition is more successful. I love the dramatic colouring and the protagonists staring at the devastated cityscape while that amazing mechanical dragon is also nicely featured. Those flame colours in the backdrop really jump out. I also love that border edging the whole cover which gives it an extra dimension. This is my favourite, though it’s a close-run thing between this one and the cover below.

 

This Russian edition, published by Эксмо in October 2010 has us back in the air with that wonderful mechanical dragon again. This is another cover that tells a dramatic story, with the city in flames and that amazing building featuring behind the lovely red and white font. I really like the fact that we can see the characters so clearly on board the dragon. Which one is your favourite?

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Murder in the Dark – Book 6 of the Ishmael Jones series by Simon R. Green #Brainfluffbookreview #MurderintheDarkbookreview

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This book cover looks creepy and rather horrific, but while there are murders and poor old Ishmael Jones is taking it all very seriously, this book has its tongue firmly in its cheek…

“The past is England’s dreaming, and not all of it sleeps soundly…”
Ishmael Jones and his partner Penny have been despatched to assist a group of scientists who are investigating a mysterious black hole which has appeared on a Somerset hillside. Could it really be a doorway to another dimension, an opening into another world? When one of the scientists disappears into the hole — with fatal consequences — Ishmael must prove whether it was an accident — or murder. But with no clues, no witnesses and no apparent motive, he has little to go on. Is there an alien predator at large, or is an all-too-human killer responsible? Only one thing is certain: if Ishmael does not uncover the truth in time, more deaths will follow…

I’m not sure at what point I began to see the funny side of this adventure, but when I did, there was a fair amount that set me quietly chuckling. Green’s dark humour is more apparent and gory in his Deathstalker series, but I found this version more enjoyable.

If you are looking for foot-to-the-floor action adventure, then you’ll be disappointed. Apart from the body count, which rises alongside the tension as Ishmael tries to work out exactly who or what is annihilating the wretched team of scientists stuck on the hill on a dark, dark night, there isn’t a lot that actually happens. Think of a locked room mystery in the middle of the English countryside. However, there are plenty of possible suspects – including what may or may not be emerging from that creepy hole – and lots of enjoyable character clashes and conflicts, which Green writes very well. The bonus for those who have followed the series, is that during this investigation we get to know a bit more about Jones’ shadowy past and hints that it might be catching up with him.

One of the joys of this series is his relationship with Penny, his girlfriend and dauntless sidekick – it’s rare to find a truly happy couple in these sorts of adventures and I hope it stays that way. Their snarky exchanges and domestic bickering about Penny’s driving and lack of cooking skills somehow helps to highlight just how weird it’s all got – and won’t it be nice to get back to normality…

Highly recommended if you like a bit of humour thrown in with the paranormal shenanigans – and the bonus is that this is the sort of series that you can jump in anywhere without losing too much of the context. While I obtained an arc of Murder in the Dark from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

Review of Eye Can Write by Jonathan Bryan #Brainfluffbookreview #EyeCanWritebookreview

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This is a book my mother sent me after seeing twelve-year-old Jonathan interviewed on TV and looking up his story.

Can you imagine not being able to speak or communicate? The silence, the loneliness, the pain. But, inside you disappear to magical places, and even meet your best friend there. However, most of the time you remain imprisoned within the isolation. Waiting, longing, hoping. Until someone realises your potential and discovers your key, so your unlocking can begin. Now you are free, flying like a wild bird in the open sky. A voice for the voiceless.

Jonathan Bryan has severe cerebral palsy, a condition that makes him incapable of speech or voluntary movement. He was locked inside his own mind, aware of the outside world but unable to fully communicate with it until he found a way by using his eyes to laboriously choose individual letters, and through this make his thoughts known.

I knew this was a special book, but was unprepared for the emotional impact. It is a book of two halves – the first part is written by Jonathan’s mother and charts the events leading up to the accident that caused Jonathan’s problems. The list of life-threatening difficulties he has endured is shockingly long, as is the number of medical interventions and trips to hospital he had needed. His gritted courage and determination were evident in the fact that he simply hung on in there and refused to die when the odds were stacked against him, time and time again.

But what for me was a source of heartbreak and intense frustration was his treatment at the special school where he was simply being warehoused. It brought back far too many unhappy memories of another bright boy whose education was severely compromised because expectations about his ability were set far too low. This book is a testament to Jonathan’s own intelligence and passion, as well as a tribute to a mother who refused to listen to the experts and was guided instead by her own instincts about her son. She taught him to read and over time, they found a way to allow him to express himself, even though it is laborious.

Jonathan’s own feelings about being trapped within his body without any way to express himself, while forced to watch the same TV programme designed for developing infants should be a wake-up call for everyone in Special Needs education. I very much hope the politicians he has met will take note of what he is saying and realise that while he is remarkable, there are probably many other children and adults with active, creative minds also trapped by their bodies. I’d like to think as a country we will take on board Jonathan’s plea that everyone should be taught to read and write, using all the technology available, unless it becomes apparent that it isn’t appropriate, which is not the case now.

In the meantime, go and track this book down. It is an emotional read, but also very uplifting. Jonathan’s poetry will stay with me for a long time…
10/10

Sunday Post – 2nd December, 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.

I’ve been AWOL for a while, mostly because I’ve been battling with my health. It’s boring and depressing dealing with it, but I certainly don’t feel inclined to share the misery around – hence my absence. Hopefully, I’m on the road to recovery – fingers crossed.

On a much happier note, I’ve been loving Sci Fi Month and used my lolling around in bed to catch up on a number of entertaining, enjoyable science fiction adventures which took me as far away from my everyday life as I could possibly get. Yippee! Thank you to Lisa and her trusty team for running this event and Rina for dreaming the whole thing up in the first place – I’m here to tell you that during a very grotty month otherwise, it’s been a lifesaver.

Last week I read:
The Expert System’s Brother by Adrian Tchaikovsky
After an unfortunate accident, Handry is forced to wander a world he doesn’t understand, searching for meaning. He soon discovers that the life he thought he knew is far stranger than he could even possibly imagine. Can an unlikely saviour provide the answers to the questions he barely comprehends?
This novella is a cracking read – Tchaikovsky doesn’t disappoint in this dystopian colony adventure. While the story didn’t deliver lots of surprises, I have found myself thinking a lot about the issues he raises – and isn’t that the mark of a good read?

 

Terms of Enlistment – Book 1 of the Frontlines series by Marko Kloos
The year is 2108, and the North American Commonwealth is bursting at the seams. For welfare rats like Andrew Grayson, there are only two ways out of the crime-ridden and filthy welfare tenements, where you’re restricted to two thousand calories of badly flavored soy every day. You can hope to win the lottery and draw a ticket on a colony ship settling off-world, or you can join the service. With the colony lottery a pipe dream, Andrew chooses to enlist in the armed forces for a shot at real food, a retirement bonus, and maybe a ticket off Earth. But as he starts a career of supposed privilege, he soon learns that the good food and decent health care come at a steep price…and that the settled galaxy holds far greater dangers than military bureaucrats or the gangs that rule the slums.
This is a really gripping read with one of the best battle scenes I’ve ever read. I’ll definitely be getting hold of the next book in this series. No wonder I keep encountering this author in the best-selling rankings… PLUS I also read Lucky Thirteen – a short story set in the same world, also very highly recommended.

 

The High Ground – Book 1 of the Imperials series by Melinda M. Snodgrass
Emperor’s daughter Mercedes is the first woman ever admitted to the High Ground, the elite training academy of the Solar League’s Star Command, and she must graduate if she is to have any hope of taking the throne. Her classmate Tracy has more modest goals — to rise to the rank of captain, and win fame and honor. But a civil war is coming and the political machinations of those who yearn for power threaten the young cadets. In a time of intrigue and alien invasion, they will be tested as they never thought possible.
I’m always a sucker for college/school-based adventures and I found this one highly readable and engrossing. The contrast between the two main characters gives a real sense of the social structure, with one out of her depth because she is suddenly confronted with the possibility of being the next ruler. While the other has been taken out of his low-class background and is enduring the misery of being a scholarship student.

 

Murder in the Dark – Book 6 of the Ishmael Jones series by Simon R. Green
Ishmael Jones and his partner Penny have been despatched to assist a group of scientists who are investigating a mysterious black hole which has appeared on a Somerset hillside. Could it really be a doorway to another dimension, an opening into another world? When one of the scientists disappears into the hole — with fatal consequences — Ishmael must prove whether it was an accident — or murder. But with no clues, no witnesses and no apparent motive, he has little to go on. Is there an alien predator at large, or is an all-too-human killer responsible? Only one thing is certain: if Ishmael does not uncover the truth in time, more deaths will follow…
Despite the grim look of the covers, I promise you that this isn’t horror on any level. It’s a paranormal, murder mystery series with its tongue firmly in its cheek. I really enjoy the snarky humour and sheer outrageous implausibility of the murders and this one cheered me up no end while I was just beginning to recover from my boring illness.

My posts last week:

#Sci Fi Month Review of Star Nomad – Book 1 of the Fallen Empire series by Lindsey Buroker

#Sci Fi Month Review of The Scent of Metal – Book 1 of the Space Argonauts series by Sabrina Chase

#Sci Fi Month Review of Into the Dark – Book 1 of the Alexis Carew series by J.A. Sutherland

#Sci Fi Month Review of Terms of Enlistment – Book 1 of the Frontlines series by Marko Kloos

#Sci Fi Month – The Ones That Got Away

Apologies for not having any interesting items to pass on – I simply haven’t been sufficiently present to retweet and comment on other folks’ blogs. In the meantime, many thanks for taking the time to comment, like and visit my blog – have a great week.

#Sci Fi Month – The Ones That Got Away…

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I’ve loved Sci Fi Month – huge thanks to Lisa and the team for organising this fabulous event. As you’ll have realised, I got a tad carried away… In fact, I got even more carried away than is apparent on the blog – because I ran out of November with still a stack of science fiction goodness all reviewed and ready to go. So here is a quick rundown of the books that missed out:

Black Holiday – Book 2 of The Black Chronicles by J.M. Anjewierden
Morgan has finally made it, earning an officer’s slot on S.T.E.V.E., the ancient flagship of the Takiyama Merchant House. She’s survived so much to get here, and isn’t about to let lingering nightmares over those events stop her now. That said, even the toughest mechanics need down time. Grudgingly taking some shore leave, Morgan goes to visit the estate of her friend Emily, Baroness Novan – and gets caught up in trouble that, for once, isn’t of her own making…
I reviewed the first book in this entertaining series here – so was keen to jump in and see what happens next to Morgan – which was something of a shock… I really enjoyed this offering and am looking forward to reading the next one when it is released.

 

Dreadnought – Book 2 of the Lost Colonies series by B.V. Larson
Captain William Sparhawk flies Earth’s single starship on a voyage of exploration. His crew of veteran spacers begins the mission with high hopes and the best of intentions, but the universe has other plans. Instead of space merchants and potential allies, they discover Earth’s impending doom. Sparhawk must decide whether to hunt down enemy scouts to keep Earth’s new starship a secret, or to head home to warn Star Guard of the danger. Either way, he’s ignited an interstellar war.
I’ve become a solid fan of Captain William Sparhawk – see my review of Battle Cruiser – and this stagnating, dystopian society – there is a real shock at the end of this book which is a gamechanger for the next one, such that I can’t wait to jump in and discover what happens next…

 

Nimbus – Book 3 of the Psi-Tech series by Jacey Bedford
In a galaxy where the super-powers are the megacorporations, and ambitious executives play fast and loose with ethics in order to secure resources, where can good people turn for help? The megacorps control the jump gates and trade routes. They use psi-techs, implant-enhanced operatives with psionic abilities, who are bound by unbreakable contracts.
But something alien is stirring in the depths of foldspace. Something bigger than the squabbles between megacorporations and independents. Foldspace visions are supposed to be a figment of the imagination. At least, that’s what they teach in flight school. Ben Benjamin knows it’s not true. Meeting a void dragon was bad enough, but now there’s the Nimbus to contend with. Are the two connected? Why do some ships transit the Folds safely and others disappear without a trace?
I’ve loved this entertaining series from a writer I thoroughly respect – see my review of Empire of Dust here. It was her talk on how to organise submissions to agents and small publishers and fired me up so that I persevered, getting a contract with the awesome folks at Grimbold Publishing in the process. It was a blast reading this final slice of the Psi-Tech series and I’ll be reviewing it shortly.

 

The Expert System’s Brother by Adrian Tchaikovsky
After an unfortunate accident, Handry is forced to wander a world he doesn’t understand, searching for meaning. He soon discovers that the life he thought he knew is far stranger than he could even possibly imagine. Can an unlikely saviour provide the answers to the questions he barely comprehends?
I love Adrian Tchaikovsky’s writing – see my review of Children of Time here. This intriguing novella is another treat, where an unfortunate incident has unforeseen consequences – this writer is fond of those. While part of this colony world adventure was reassuringly familiar, Tchaikovsky does his trick of taking genre conventions by the scruff of their neck and giving them a good shake.

 

Satellite by Nick Lake
He’s going to a place he’s never been before: home. 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.
This was an intriguing read, given it was written in text-prose. While I understand a number of readers simply couldn’t get through it, I think the fact this was a paperback actually helped. The story itself is thoroughly enjoyable, apart from a set piece that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a Hollywood film, but rather let the book down. Other than that, I found the questions this book raised were both uncomfortable and pertinent for our near-future expansion into space.

 

The Boy on the Bridge – Book 2 of The Girl With All the Gifts series by M.R. Carey
Once upon a time, in a land blighted by terror, there was a very clever boy. The people thought the boy could save them, so they opened their gates and sent him out into the world. To where the monsters lived.
If you haven’t read The Girl With All the Gifts yet want to plunge into this offering, feel free to do so – while it is set in the same world, the links between the two books are tenuous and don’t add all that much to the overall story. I found this zombie apocalypse reworking a heartbreak of missed opportunities and bungled decisions – but oh so very believable. And if zombies aren’t your thing, don’t dismiss this one – they aren’t my thing either, but Carey’s a master storyteller and this is a masterful story.

So… these are the books I read and reviewed for Sci Fi Month, before I realised that November only had 30 days – and there are a number of others I haven’t yet written the reviews for. As I said, I did get a tad carried away. What about you – are there any here that have taken your eye? What did you read for Sci Fi Month?