Monthly Archives: July 2020

Friday Faceoff – In the distance between black and white lies the colour of the soul… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoffwhitecovers

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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 being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this week we are featuring WHITE covers. I’ve selected Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow by Peter Høeg.

The Harvill Press 1996

This offering was produced by The Harvill Press in 1996. I really like this cover. The snowscape isn’t pure – it’s scruffy with grass poking through it and the protagonist is facing away from us. I love the red coat flapping open – that one pop of colour works really well – as does the title font, in particular. This is my favourite.

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012

Published in April 2012, by the publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux, this 20th Anniversary edition is far more beautiful. The snow heaped up on those branches is lovely and complex, initially catching my eye. But good luck working out who wrote it and what it’s called in thumbnail. In fact, the author and title font are so ridiculously small and understated, you need to pay attention when the book cover is a whole lot bigger, too. And as far as I’m concerned, that’s a dealbreaker. Surely a book cover should be featuring the title and author without having to resort to a magnifying glass.


Portuguese edition, 2010

This Portuguese edition, published by Edições ASA in October 2010, is another beautiful offering. I really love the punchy red SMILLA jumping out at us as the protagonist walks towards us. But there is a glaring problem here – Smilla is part Greenlander and a lot of her depression stems from the fact that she doesn’t fit in. Her features are not that of a typical Caucasian female. We are told repeatedly she is stocky and short, not willowy and tall… Nope. Not good enough.

Carl Hanser, 1994

This German edition, published in February 1994 by Carl Hanser, is another beautiful offering. There are other versions of this frosted design in a bright turquoise and deep blue – but this is the colour that does full justice to the stunning fractal patterns. I also like the treatment of the title and author fonts – that red really pops. This is so very nearly my favourite…

Norstedts, 1994

This Swedish edition, published by Norstedts in 1994, is too boringly generic. As well as being an intriguing whodunit, the book explores what it means to belong, culture and alienation. A few footprints in some fluffy snow doesn’t give a sense of the complexity of the story – unlike those fractal patterns above. And once again, the publisher has decided the title is a secret, by making it almost as small and unobtrusive as one of those fluffy snowflakes. Which is your favourite?


*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Feathertide by Beth Cartwright #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #Feathertidebookreview

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It was the cover that snagged my attention – and why not? It is absolutely gorgeous – and the premise also sounded intriguing, so I was very happy to be approved for an arc…

BLURB: Marea was born to be different – a girl born covered in the feathers of a bird, and kept hidden in a crumbling house full of secrets. When her new tutor, the Professor, arrives with his books, maps and magical stories, he reveals a world waiting outside the window and her curiosity is woken…

REVIEW: I have shortened the blurb, because I don’t think it will help readers to know anything of the unfolding plot, given the way it’s written. Actually, that gorgeous cover is a good indicator of the writing. The prose is lush and very descriptive. I was initially pulled into young Marea’s world – not only being able to visualise, but smell and taste it, too. This sensitive, intelligent child, brought up in a brothel, is tucked away for her own safety – but that doesn’t make the long hours alone any easier to bear. That said, I found Marea’s mother beautifully portrayed – the sense of her trying to do the very best for her child in difficult circumstances, along with her love for her feathered daughter was one of the most poignant and moving parts of the book, for me.

However, this isn’t a short book and round about the halfway stage, once I’d become accustomed to the rhythm of the writing and settled down with the characters, I was expecting the pace to increase somewhat, or at least find the story taking an unexpected turn along the way. Sadly, neither of those things happened and as I’d already worked out where the story was going, I was conscious during the second half of an increasing sense of disappointment when it did just that. While the descriptions and sense of wonder that Marea experienced within the City of Murmurs (think Venice with magical corners) were delightful, and would have been outstanding had this only been novella-length, the actual plot wasn’t sufficient to sustain a book of this length and density.

However, Cartwright is certainly One To Watch and I’m hoping that her next effort is better paced – her worldbuilding is fabulous. Recommended for fans of lush, beautifully described fantasy tales. The ebook arc copy of Feathertide was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
7/10

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 29th July, 20202 #Brainfluffbookblog #CWC #WOW

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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 – Afterland by Lauren Beukes – release date 3rd September, 2020

#dystopian science fiction #family relationships

BLURB: They’ll call her a bad mother.
Cole can live with that. Because when she breaks her son Miles out of the Male Protection Facility – designed to prevent him joining the 99% of men wiped off the face of the Earth – she’s not just taking him back.
She’s setting him free.
Leaving Miles in America would leave him as a lab experiment; a pawn in the hands of people who now see him as a treasure to be guarded, traded, and used. What kind of mother would stand by and watch her child suffer? But as their journey to freedom takes them across a hostile and changed country, freedom seems ever more impossible.
It’s time for Cole to prove just how far she’ll go to protect her son.

What caught my eye was that this is a story about a mother trying to save her son in a world where the majority of men have died off. I have enjoyed Beukes writing – see my review of Zoo City and Moxyland – so I am intrigued to see what she is proposing to do with this scenario…



Tuesday Treasures – 6 #Brainfluffbookblog #LightintheLockdown

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I’ve been uploading photos of my garden on my Sunday Posts, which have been getting a lot of positive comments, so I have decided to feature the pics in their full size, so you can see some of the detail. This week, I am featuring some of the yellow and gold-coloured foliage in my garden, because it is mostly plants with striking foliage that attract me and while last week I featured the dark, or bronze coloured foliage, there needs to be a splashes of brightness to sing out and cheer me up during the long dreary days of winter. Here they are…

Golden boxI grew this bush from a small cutting I plucked while on a walk…
The flowers on this pretty little fuschia look even more lovely against the gold leaves
Variagated oleaster, which is as tough as old boots and screens us from the road
A conifer with golden-edged leaves – it glows in the winter…
This pretty little pittosporum has golden-veined leaves
Last week I named one of my heuchera Rhubarb and Custard – and I was wrong – this is the real one!
Spotted laurel. I love this plant…
But if I had to name my favourite plant in the whole garden – it’s this one. My Goldfinger choisya blazes throughout the winter, reminding me of sunny days…
This dear little thuja is called Rheingold – isn’t it cute?

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Chaos Vector – Book 2 of The Protectorate series by Megan E. O’Keefe #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #ChaosVectorbookreview

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I put this one down with very mixed feelings. The opening sequence of Velocity Weapon has to be one of the best opening scenes I’ve read in space opera for years. I was blown away by it – unfortunately, I didn’t find the rest of the book quite matched up to that promise. Would Chaos Vector manage to fulfil that flash of awesomeness?

BLURB: Sanda and Tomas are fleeing for their lives after letting the most dangerous smartship in the universe run free. Now, unsure of who to trust, Sanda knows only one thing for certain — to be able to save herself from becoming a pawn of greater powers, she needs to discover the secret of the coordinates hidden in her skull….

REVIEW: The rest of the blurb is a bit too chatty for my taste, so I’m leaving it there. Ironically, while the beginning of the first book was the high point for me, I was badly struggling for the first 20% of this one to really care all that much. I’m not a fan of pages of info-dumping – and that’s what we got, as the author went into lots of detail about the world, leaving the characters waving in the wind in the process.

There were times when O’Keefe seemed a tad overwhelmed by the scope and scale of her world and range of her characters. Fortunately, we had Sanda and Biran, and once the story got going, these two main characters with their attendant plotlines pulled the book back on track. But I thought Jules was something of a cliché, and that the book suffered because we didn’t see anything like enough of Tomas. Given what a vital role he played in the first book, we got far too little of him in this one – especially as there was a plot twist involving him that I found plain irritating, as I immediately realised how it was going to play out.

Despite these hiccups, the story was an entertaining read with plenty going on and a detailed, nuanced world, whose murky history is coming back to bite the Protectorate in the bottom. Some of the flashbacks were unnecessary – the information we needed could have been depicted within the narrative timeframe without breaking the flow of the story. But I did enjoy the politicking among the Keepers and I love Sanda’s character. This one finished on something of a cliffhanger, so I’m hoping we won’t be waiting too long for the next book in the series. Recommended for fans of epic space opera with plenty going on. While I obtained an arc of Chaos Vector from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
7/10

Review of KINDLE Ebook of Velocity Weapon – Book 1 of The Protectorate by Megan E. O’Keefe #Brainfluffbookreview #ReviewofVelocity Weapon

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I was lucky enough to be approved for the second book in this space opera adventure, Chaos Vector, so wanted to get hold of this one in order to fully understand the story.

BLURB: Sanda and Biran Greeve were siblings destined for greatness. A high-flying sergeant, Sanda has the skills to take down any enemy combatant. Biran is a savvy politician who aims to use his new political position to prevent conflict from escalating to total destruction. However, on a routine maneuver, Sanda loses consciousness when her gunship is blown out of the sky. Instead of finding herself in friendly hands, she awakens to find the unthinkable has happened…


REVIEW: I’ve tweaked the blurb to avoid a major spoiler that would ruin that amazing opening scene – and my firm advice is to avoid the wretched blurb before tucking into this one. That opening scene is one of the best I read in a long time and blew me away. I loved the situation Sanda finds herself in and was riveted by the ongoing dilemma and how it was going to play out.

However, that isn’t the only major plotline in this book. While I also enjoyed Biran’s storyline, there was another ongoing narrative which I struggled not to skim. It was about a scrappy girl from a poor background who pulls a job which goes badly, which simply couldn’t compete, when compared with the events facing Sanda and Biran, whose unfolding stories just went on getting ever better.

And then, Sanda’s storyline also became a bit more ordinary, turning more into a typical action-packed space opera adventure, rather than the fantastic tension-filled tightrope I’d inhaled in the earlier part of the book. That said, I don’t want anyone to think this is a bad or disappointing story. It is well crafted, with strong characters, vivid backdrop and convincing world. The problem was – it didn’t quite fulfil the promise of that amazing opening, howeverI am certainly looking forward to Chaos Vector with great anticipation. Recommended for fans of well-told space opera adventure.
8/10

Sunday Post – 26th July, 2020 #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.

It’s been a sociable week. On Wednesday evening, my writing group was able to meet in Debbie’s garden and I read parts of Picky Eaters Part 2. It was great meeting up in real life again, though we noticed how much earlier the nights are drawing in, already. On Thursday I visited my friend, Sally and saw Tim for the first time since the lockdown – to discover he’s grown a beard! And it really suits him😊. We were celebrating the fact she has now received the proof copy of her book Miracle in Slow Motion, which looks absolutely fantastic. It was lovely catching up with her – it’s been so long since we had a chance to talk face to face.

On Friday, I drove up to see my daughter and the children – after lunch, we visited Washbrook Farm, where they keep animals for children to see and an amazing swing park. It was a beautiful day, warm and sunny, ideal for such a visit. The great thing about this place is that we could walk there. Eliza took all the animals in her stride – but was far more excited about the small tractor and rushed across, wanting to clamber aboard. All the children then spent time at one of the biggest swing parks I’ve ever seen. I was impressed at how much steadier she is on her feet and how adventurous she is. We had the loveliest time.

This weekend is a bit tense in the garden, as the young gulls nesting next door are fledging. The trouble is, if they land in our garden, they are trapped as they cannot take off again and we need to gently herd them through the sidegate and out to the front where they are able to fly. Himself is a dab hand at this, even freeing one that got tangled in the hedge early on Saturday morning. Meanwhile the adults are wheeling overhead, calling frantically. But they never try to attack us while we are helping – they seem to know we mean them no harm.

The pics this week are featuring the different types of yellow-coloured foliage I have in the garden, including my choisia, spotted laurel, golden-leaved ivy and my Amber Wave heuchera.

Last week I read:
Chaos Vector – Book 2 of The Protectorate by Megan E O’Keefe
Sanda and Tomas are fleeing for their lives after letting the most dangerous smartship in the universe run free. Now, unsure of who to trust, Sanda knows only one thing for certain — to be able to save herself from becoming a pawn of greater powers, she needs to discover the secret of the coordinates hidden in her skull.
This is the second book in this foot to the floor epic space opera adventure. Review to follow.


AUDIOBOOK Deep Roots – Book 2 of The Innsmouth Legacy by Ruthanna Emrys
Aphra Marsh, descendant of the People of the Water, has survived Deep One internment camps and made a grudging peace with the government that destroyed her home and exterminated her people on land. Deep Roots continues Aphra’s journey to rebuild her life and family on land, as she tracks down long-lost relatives. She must repopulate Innsmouth or risk seeing it torn down by greedy developers, but as she searches she discovers that people have been going missing. She will have to unravel the mystery, or risk seeing her way of life slip away.
I was thrilled to discover this sequel to one of my favourite reads in 2017 – Winter Tide. My excitement was well-founded – I absolutely loved this one, and the narration was spot on. Review to follow.

Seven Devils – Book 1 of the Seven Devils series by Laura Lam and Elizabeth May
When Eris faked her death, she thought she had left her old life as the heir to the galaxy’s most ruthless empire behind. But her recruitment by the Novantaen Resistance, an organization opposed to the empire’s voracious expansion, throws her right back into the fray.

Eris has been assigned a new mission: to infiltrate a spaceship ferrying deadly cargo and return the intelligence gathered to the Resistance. But her partner for the mission, mechanic and hotshot pilot Cloelia, bears an old grudge against Eris, making an already difficult infiltration even more complicated. When they find the ship, they discover more than they bargained for: three fugitives with firsthand knowledge of the corrupt empire’s inner workings.
This action-packed space opera adventure is great fun – and that climactic ending… oh my word! Review to follow.



My posts last week:

Castellan the Black and His Wise Draconic Musings

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Oranges and Lemons – Book 17 of the Bryant and May: Peculiar Crimes Unit series by Christopher Fowler

Friday Face-off featuring The Many-Colored Land – Book 1 of the Pliocene Saga by Julian May

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Sin Eater by Megan Campisi

Can’t-Wait-Wednesday featuring Inconquerable Sun – Book 1 of The Sun Chronicles by Kate Elliott

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Peace Talks – Book 16 of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

Tuesday Treasures – 5

Review of AUDIOBOOK The Mirror and the Light – Book 3 of the Thomas Cromwell series by Hilary Mantel

Castellan the Black and His Wise Draconic Musings

Sunday Post – 26th July 2020


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

Short story: SINEW AND STEEL AND WHAT THEY TOLD, by Carrie Vaughn https://spaceandsorcery.wordpress.com/2020/07/21/short-story-sinew-and-steel-and-what-they-told-by-carrie-vaughn/ This is an amazing short story by a fabulous SFF author, whose writing I love – see my review of The Wild Dead…

Thursday Doors – Castle Saunderson Again https://jeanreinhardt.wordpress.com/2020/07/22/thursday-doors-castle-saunderson-again/ Jean’s photo-tours of tucked-away doors around Ireland is always a treat – and this one is no exception…

Blogging Kindness https://mythsofthemirror.com/2020/07/23/blogging-kindness/ Diana confirms what I’ve already known – the book blogging community is filled with lots of thoughtful, kindly folks. It bears repeating, though – given that some parts of social media are so very angry…

Writers, Pay Yourself First https://writerunboxed.com/2020/07/23/writers-pay-yourself-first/ While this article is aimed at writers, it occurred to me while reading it that a lot of folks I know – particularly women – would benefit from this advice…

Love-Fi https://luv-fi.com/2020/06/28/rock-and-water-abstract-digital-art/ Feast your eyes on these amazing abstract designs…

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you and yours have a peaceful, healthy week. Take care.

Castellan the Black and his Wise Draconic Musings on Life #BrainfluffCastellanthe Black #WiseDragonicMusingsonLife #PickyEaters

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There aren’t many problems in Life that can’t be improved by a good FLAMING


Castellan the Black, mighty dragon warrior, or Casta the Grey as he used to be known as, features in my short story Picky Eaters, written to provide a humorous escape from all the stuff that isn’t happening on Wyvern Peak… All proceeds for the duration of its publishing life are donated to mental health charities.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Oranges and Lemons – Book 17 of the Bryant and May: Peculiar Crimes Unit series by Christopher Fowler #Brainfluffbook review #OrangesandLemonsbookreview

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I was looking for something a bit quirky and this looked as if it would fit the bill…

BLURB: One Sunday morning, the outspoken Speaker of the House of Commons steps out of his front door only to be crushed under a mountain of citrus fruit. Bizarre accident or something more sinister? The government needs to know because here’s a man whose knowledge of parliament’s biggest secret could put the future of the government at stake? It should be the perfect case for Bryant & May and the Peculiar Crimes Unit, but unfortunately one detective is in hospital, the other is missing and the staff have all been dismissed. It seems the PCU is no more. But events escalate: a series of brutal crimes seemingly linked to an old English folk-song threatens the very foundation of London society and suddenly the PCU is offered a reprieve and are back in (temporary) business!

REVIEW: Well I got quirkiness in spades… And yes – I know that I crashed midway into this series (well, more than midway, given this is Book 17, to be honest) but picking up the pieces as to what had previously happened wasn’t the challenge. Getting used to Fowler’s habit of meandering off the narrative in the voice of Bryant to wander around London and give ad hoc tours – as well as the rather rambling style – did turn out to be a bit more of a problem. There is a fine line between charmingly different and annoyingly self indulgent when employing these sorts of tactics, particularly in a murder mystery. Most of the time, I think Fowler stayed on the right side of that line, but there were times when the interjections complicated an already fairly tortuous plot.

I also wasn’t wholly convinced by the setup of the Peculiar Crimes Unit and it’s last gasp – it seems a shambolic waste of resources even by dear old UK standards to dismantle a unit, only to promptly put it back together again. Particularly as there weren’t any major demotions during either process.

But these details didn’t prevent this being an entertainingly different read that engrossed me throughout. And although I was a bit frustrated at times with yet another diversion from the main plot, or yet another silly example of Bryant’s eccentric behaviour that got increasingly daft – there was never any risk of my putting this one down and not completing it. As for the plot… nope – I’m not even going to try. It sort of made sense at the time, but if you want to really know about it – go and get hold of the book, or better still, do the intelligent thing and start this series from the beginning. Recommended for murder mystery fans who love a vivid backdrop and highly eccentric main characters. The ebook arc copy of Oranges and Lemons was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
8/10


Friday Faceoff –Each man should frame his life so that at some future hour fact and his dreaming meet… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoffframecovers

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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 being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this week we are featuring covers with FRAMES. I’ve selected the first book in the mighty series – The Many-Colored Land – Book 1 of the Pliocene Saga by Julian May.


Del Rey 1985

This offering was produced by Del Rey in January 1985. This is full of drama and colour, featuring one of the powerful alien women, accompanied by a human torc-wearer. The stormy sky denotes the time tunnel that links the Pliocene era with modern Earth, allowing people to make the one-way journey into the past. While I like the cover design and am a fan of striking title fonts – the vivid fuchsia clashes with the colour palette in the rest of the cover and unbalances it visually, rather spoiling the overall effect.

Del Rey 1983

Published in June 1983, by Del Rey, I think this cover is more successful. I really like the punchy colours and clever design. The horse-riding warrior apparently riding out across a modern cityscape with a space ship in the background raises interesting questions that would make me want to pick up this book. I also like the title and author fonts, both their design and the colours, which work well with the rest of the cover. However, I don’t like all that chatter crammed across the top of the cover which detracts from the awesome image.

Fawcett Books 1982

This edition, published in March 1982 by Fawcett Books is beautiful. I love the stylised landscape, with those volcanic mountains disappearing into the distance – clearly in the other timezone. And that amazing time tunnel wending its way across the world, apparently floating there. And yes… I know there is a black textbox chopping off the fabulous image across the bottom of the cover AND there is too much chatter at the top. But there is also a really funky sci fi font that looks awesome and adds to the sense of science fiction otherness of the whole design. This is my favourite.

Houghton Mifflin 1981

This edition, published in January 1981 by Houghton Mifflin, is also a strong contender. We have a stream of people from across a variety of times trekking towards the tunnel. We can see the other version of Earth in space, beyond where everyone has congregated ready for their new lives. The title and author fonts do the job – but I very much like how the textboxes have been left transparent, so we can still appreciate the cover design, while the title and author are suitably visually set apart from the action.

La máquina que hace PING! 2019

This Spanish edition, published by La máquina que hace PING! in September 2019, is a close contender. I love the haughty look on the beautiful woman’s face and the odd mixture of clothing she is wearing. I also like the backdrop – presumably the entrance to the tunnel on the other side in the Pliocene era, judging by the luxuriant ferns. The coloration and strong design make this an eye-catching cover that has me wondering what is going on. What about you – which is your favourite?