Monthly Archives: November 2021

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc World’s Edge – Book 2 of The Tethered Citadel series by David Hair #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #World’sEdgebookreview

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Over the last few years, I’ve become a solid fan of Hair’s writing – see my reviews of the Olympus trilogy, Athena’s Champion, Oracle’s War and Sacred Bride which he co-wrote with Cath Mayo. I was also fortunate enough to be approved to read an arc of the first book in this adventure, Map’s Edgesee my review here.

BLURB: Chasing a dream of wealth and freedom, Raythe Vyre’s ragtag caravan of refugees from imperial oppression went off the map, into the frozen wastes of the north. What they found there was beyond all their expectations: Rath Argentium, the legendary city of the long-vanished Aldar, complete with its fabled floating citadel.

Even more unexpectedly, they encountered the Tangato, the remnants of the people who served the Aldar, who are shocked to learn that they’re not alone in the world – and hostile to Raythe’s interlopers. What awaits Raythe’s people in the haunted castle that floats above them, the lair of the last Aldar king? Everlasting wealth – or eternal damnation?

REVIEW: Firstly, if you haven’t had the pleasure of reading the first book, Map’s Edge, I strongly advise that you do so before tucking into this one. The action picks up right where Map’s Edge left off and you’ll probably be floundering at the start. That said, if you did read the first book a while ago and can’t quite recall all the important details, Hair has thoughtfully provided a very useful ‘Story So Far’ which handily jogs the memory. However, I don’t recommend that you rely on it instead of reading the first book – you’ll lose far too much of the detail, nuances and sheer energy of this cracking fantasy adventure for that to be a remotely satisfactory substitute for the actual book.

Once again, we are plunged into the middle of the unfolding emergency as two cultures collide. One group is on the run from a powerful regime committed to stamping their own way of doing things onto the subjects of a recently defeated nation, while the other group is the remnant of a mighty magical people responsible for the environmental catastrophe that has overtaken the planet. Hair explores this fascinating dynamic through a number of vivid, well written characters whose adventures and experiences had me reading far later than I’d intended. And at a climactic part of the story, my stomach was churning as I kept turning the pages – which doesn’t happen all that often.

I loved the directions in which the story went – and while there are some villains in the story that I loved to hate, I could understand why they made the choices they did. It takes a storyteller with power and charisma to provide that depth of characterisation and clarity of vision within a narrative crammed with action. I’ve found myself thinking a lot about this one since I put it down – the powerful characters and the discovery of a lost civilisation has resonated with me. Very highly recommended for fans of epic fantasy full of memorable characters, a riveting setting and a twisting plot full of action. While I obtained an arc of World’s Edge from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
10/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Array 2781 – Book 2 of the Drago Tell Dramis series by Janet Edwards #BrainfluffNEWRELEASEreview #Array2781bookreview

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I’m a huge fan of Janet Edward’s books – see my reviews of Earth Girl, Earth Star, Earth Flight, Earth and Air, Frontier and her short story collection Earth Prime which are all books set in her Earth Girl series, as well as Telepath, Defender, Hurricane and Borderline in the Hive Mind series, and Scavenger Alliance and Scavenger Blood in the Scavenger Exodus series, which is a spinoff prequel series set in the Earth Girl world. This series featuring disaster magnet Draco Tell Dramis is also set before the Earth Girl books in the same world – but only a few years before we get to meet young Jarra.

BLURB: Array 2781 is the second of three full-length novels set immediately after the short story ‘Hera 2781’.

Drago has now learned the secret that his Betan clan has been hiding for almost a decade. He’s currently alternating between moods of pitying his second cousin and fighter team leader, Jaxon, and wanting to strangle him.

They both have to put their feelings aside though, and concentrate on using lumbering solar array transport ships to help with the repairs of the five Earth solar arrays, because Earth is critically short of power. Fortunately, repairing solar arrays is perfectly routine work, so Drago definitely can’t get into trouble.

REVIEW: I’ve had the pleasure of reading both the short story ‘Hera 2781’ and Hestia 2781 see my review – which deal with events leading up to this book. And while I definitely recommend that you get hold of both of these books as they are stormingly good reads, if you did happen upon this one and decided to dive in without having read the previous books, I don’t think you’d flounder. Edwards does an excellent job of giving sufficient information without silting up the pace.

Picking up this one reminded me all over again just how much I enjoy Edwards’ bouncy, upbeat writing style. There is an energy and optimism in her work that is so often missing in sci fi writing, which often deals with the worst-case scenarios. That isn’t to say there aren’t disasters and action adventure within this book – they’re there, alright. But it is far more about the people who strive to do the best in difficult circumstances, rather than concentrating on those who are only out for themselves.

The main protagonist, Draco, could so easily have come across as a bit of a Gary Stu – he comes from a rich, well-connected family, can charm the stars out of their solar systems and is classically handsome. But without having him seem unduly victimised or whiny – Edwards also demonstrates that those traits can also be a major disadvantage. It’s cleverly done and a lot harder to achieve than Edwards makes it look. She is also adept at providing all sorts of details about the solar array that powers Earth in 2781, without any of it coming across as remotely boring. It reminds of when she took us on all those futuristic archaeological digs in Earth Girl, which had me rapt. As I read this one the pages turned themselves, until I was approaching the final chapter with dread as I didn’t want the adventure to end – which is always a sure sign I’m reading a well crafted story with charismatic characters, moments of humour and a cracking plot.

Very highly recommended for science fiction fans who appreciate science fiction that isn’t painted in shades of dread. I was provided with a review copy of Array 2781 by the author, which in no way has influenced my honest, unbiased opinion.
9/10

Review of The Necropolis Empire: a Twilight Imperium novel – Book 2 of the Twilight Imperium series by Tim Pratt #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #TheNecropolisEmpirebookreview

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I was lucky enough to be approved to read Tim Pratt’s entertaining portal sci fi adventure, Doors of Sleep, back in January this year which I thoroughly enjoyed. So I was pleased to see this offering on Netgalley and delighted when I was approved to read it.

BLURB: Bianca Xing has spent a lifetime on a provincial planet, dreaming of travelling the stars. When her planet is annexed by the Barony of Letnev, Bianca finds herself being taken into custody, told that she’s special – the secret daughter of a brilliant scientist, hidden away on a remote planet for her own safety. But the truth about Bianca is stranger. There are secrets hidden in her genetic code that could have galaxy altering consequences. Driven by an incredible yearning and assisted by the fearsome Letnev Captain, Dampierre, Bianca must follow her destiny to the end, even if it leads to places that are best left forgotten.

REVIEW: Apparently this novel is a spinoff story from a popular boardgame, Twilight Imperium. If you’ve played and enjoyed the game, then you might find this information interesting – however if you haven’t ever heard of it, don’t worry as it won’t impact your enjoyment of this rollicking space opera adventure in any way.

The other issue to clear up is the fact that this is the second book in the series. As you know, one of my main hobbies is crashing midway into series – and this is one of those occasions when that tactic absolutely paid off. As far as I can ascertain, the first book was set in an entirely different part of the Imperium galaxy with a cast of different characters. I hadn’t even realised there was another book, Fractured Void until I looked up the details of The Necropolis Empire on Goodreads and while I’d like to get hold of the first book and read it as I think I’d thoroughly enjoy it – as the stories don’t overlap, it really doesn’t matter if you pick this one up without having read it.

I thoroughly enjoy Pratt’s breezy, humorous style. While space opera is a favourite genre of mine, it frequently can get very tense and serious – and right now I can do with all the fun I can get. Pratt has the knack of covering actions scenes full of violence and gore with a gung-ho bravura which didn’t diminish the stakes or the tension, but gives an extra layer of entertainment. He is an accomplished writer with a smooth writing style and an ability to write genuinely nice, sweet-natured characters that are also interesting and possess hidden depths. That’s harder to do than he makes it look. I fell in love with dear Bianca and I particularly enjoyed the vivid worldbuilding of her home planet that sets up the action, before life takes a major left turn for her.

In many ways, the story covers one of the major SFF tropes – that of a Chosen One who is singled out for a particular destiny once she reaches a certain age. What amused me is the way Pratt plays with our expectations around this dynamic right from the start of the story. And while the setup is as cosily familiar as a cup of night-time cocoa, that doesn’t prevent him from presenting us with some surprises along the way. I tucked into this one, relaxed in the knowledge that I was in the hands of a storyteller who knows his craft and would take me on a roller-coaster ride that I’d thoroughly enjoy. And I was absolutely right. This is a joy and I thoroughly recommend it for space opera fans, who like a splash of humour alongside their star-studded action adventures. While I obtained an arc of The Necropolis Empire from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

SUNDAY POST – LIVING WITH LONG COVID #5

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This is my fortnightly update on how I’m doing while coping with Long Covid now it’s been 9 months since I first got ill, which I’m adding to my Sunday Post blog, hosted by Kimberly at Caffeinated Reviewer.

It’s been a rough couple of weeks. My energy levels have plummeted, meaning that I am now once again spending much of the day in bed. Getting up and showering feels like a huge mountain to climb and there are days when I simply cannot do it. The night-time sweats have also returned and as my inner ear is still draining, my tinnitus is very loud – which means I’m struggling to sleep at night. Several times I haven’t managed to fall asleep until dawn. This time around, I’m not finding it as easy to remain calm and positive – particularly as Himself has also been struggling. It was recently his father’s birthday, which has been hard as he died in May and the family home is in the process of being sold, so he has also been involved in helping to clear the house. And I’m too ill to be able to help in any way.

My reflexologist thinks my downturn is still the consequence of the flu jab that I had a fortnight ago. As my system is very stressed, she thinks the vaccine has hammered my energy levels and healing and warned me that it could go on causing problems for at least another week. That said, I’d still rather deal with the fallout from the vaccine than a full-blown attack of flu. I vividly recall suffering from the illness when I was a fit young woman in my 20s – and there is no way I want to cope with that on top of dealing with Long Covid.

Needless to say, my editing and the work I was doing on my manuscripts has come to a screeching halt. And as you’ll already realise, I haven’t had the energy to post anything on my blog, either. Hopefully if I continue to rest as much as possible and go on taking the supplements, eating sensibly and meditating, things will start to swing back round again. At least I’m still able to walk without a stick. I’ve also been reading and listening to audiobooks. It’s been a lifesaver, particularly on nights when I’m bathed in perspiration and the continual high-pitched whine in my ears won’t let me sleep.

This week I’ve read:-
World’s Edge – Book 2 of The Tethered Citadel series by David Hair
Chasing a dream of wealth and freedom, Raythe Vyre’s ragtag caravan of refugees from imperial oppression went off the map, into the frozen wastes of the north. What they found there was beyond all their expectations: Rath Argentium, the legendary city of the long-vanished Aldar, complete with its fabled floating citadel.

Even more unexpectedly, they encountered the Tangato, the remnants of the people who served the Aldar, who are shocked to learn that they’re not alone in the world – and hostile to Raythe’s interlopers. What awaits Raythe’s people in the haunted castle that floats above them, the lair of the last Aldar king? Everlasting wealth – or eternal damnation?
This epic fantasy series continues to deliver wonderful action scenes and fascinating plot twists as two cultures crash together in very difficult circumstances. I’ve been thinking about this one a lot and it’s definitely making my Outstanding Reads list this year. Review to follow
10/10

Double, Double, Tart and Trouble – Book 2 of the Spellford Cove Mystery series by Samantha Silver

Just when Robin thought things were settling down a bit in Spellford Cove, she finds herself mired in a murder investigation once more when a customer of hers is poisoned. Then just to make matters worse, a photo of Queen of Tarts cheesecake in front of the body is printed on the front page of the local paper.

Robin soon realizes that once again she has no choice but to try and find the killer, this time to save her business. But with the main reporter in town deciding to tank Robin’s bakery, and that strange woman making another reappearance, Robin feels like a woman juggling too many muffins. Can she find the killer and save her business? Or has Robin baked her last batch of brownies?
I wasn’t quite as invested in this murder mystery as I was in the first book. Partly because I found the victim rather unconvincing. That didn’t prevent it from helping me to pass a long, difficult night when the shafts of snarky humour were very welcome.
7/10

AUDIOBOOK Asylum – Book 9 of the Star Kingdom series by Lindsay Buroker

A young woman with cybernetic upgrades, Mari Moonrazor has decided to flee the restrictive machine-worshipping cult she was raised in. She longs to know what it’s like to live among normal humans and experience simple biological pleasures like consuming alcohol, kissing a boy, and—most importantly—eating chocolate.

But her mother, the infamous astroshaman leader Kyla Moonrazor, is determined to get her back, even if it means sending a bounty hunter after her. Mari’s only hope for freedom is to be granted asylum from the leaders of the powerful Star Kingdom. First, she must prove that she has knowledge and resources she can offer them. Second, she has to earn their trust. This all would have been easier if her people hadn’t bombed their planet…
This book is a standalone, as it occurs after all Casmir’s adventures are over and features one of the intriguing astroshamans. I did miss dear Casmir’s viewpoint – but it was fun seeing how other characters regarded him. And as I now feel like all the regular Star Kingdom characters are old friends, revisiting this world was huge fun. Buroker is now one of my favourite authors.
9/10

Death’s Rival – Book 5 of the Jane Yellowrock series by Faith Hunter
For a vampire killer like Jane, having Leo Pellisier as a boss took some getting used to. But now, someone is out to take his place as Master Vampire of the city of New Orleans, and is not afraid to go through Jane to do it. After an attack that’s tantamount to a war declaration, Leo knows his rival is both powerful and vicious, but Leo’s not about to run scared. After all, he has Jane. But then, a plague strikes, one that takes down vampires and makes their masters easy prey.

Now, to uncover the identity of the vamp who wants Leo’s territory, and to find the cause of the vamp-plague, Jane will have to go to extremes…and maybe even to war.
This series just goes from strength to strength. I’m loving the quality of the writing and the ongoing development of Jane as she emerges from yet another devastating adventure.
9/10

The Queen’s Pardon – Book 6 of the Alexis Carew series by J.A. Sutherland
Trapped on a hostile world, hunted by pirate bands and abandoned by her fellow captains, Alexis Carew must lead her small band to safety, even though it seems every hand is set against her.

Stalked by pirates in the skies above and shadowy, alien figures on the planet below, Alexis must convince former enemies to trust her even as she discovers where the tendrils of her true enemies lead.
This is the final book in this entertaining Hornblower-in-space adventure series. I thought Sutherland handled this twisting action-packed plot particularly well and while I’m sad to get to the end of Alexis’s story, I was very happy with how the whole thing ended.
10/10

Licence to Howl – Book 2 of the Wolfbrand series by Helen Harper
Devereau Webb is riding high. He’s a powerful werewolf with a killer combination of intelligence, wits and strength and he’s learning more and more about his abilities every day. He isn’t usually the type to take orders, however, and that has to change with his new role as a supernatural spy within the British security services.

Tasked with heading to Rome to infiltrate a mysterious gang with terrorist links, Devereau has to call on all his newfound skills to prevent disaster from happening. That might be prove to be the easy part. He’s also determined to convince a certain sexy vampire that he’s the man for her. What could possibly go wrong?
Helen Harper is another favourite author – and this spinoff series featuring Devereau is a bundle of fun. While there is plenty of action and danger – there is also a lot of humour. I particularly enjoyed the dynamic between the adrenaline-junkie, alpha male and his former Vampire girlfriend. After their fling, it’s Devereau who has been left heartsick and pining – and determined to woo her back, which is a nice change.
9/10

Risen – Book 12 of the Alex Verus series by Benedict Jacka
Alex’s girlfriend, the life mage Anne, has fallen fully under the control of the deadly djinn she made a bargain with, and it is preparing to create an army of mages subject to its every whim. Alex, the Council, and the Dark mage Richard Drakh agree to call a truce in their war, and plans are made for a joint attack.

Alex knows that it’s only a matter of time before Drakh and the Council turn on each other . . . and neither cares about keeping Anne alive. Can Alex figure out a way to stop Anne and to free her from possession before time runs out for the people he loves?
This is the final book in this classy, well-written series. I haven’t read another author who so effectively portrays the issues facing a divination mage – and Alex’s character development, particularly in this book, is outstanding. Jacka also manages to bring this popular, long-running series safely home. Review to follow.
10/10

I haven’t published any blog posts since 7th November. Thank you so much for visiting and commenting. I’m aware that right now, it’s a very one-sided relationship and I don’t know when I’ll be able to fully reciprocate. In the meantime, do take care and try to keep well.

SUNDAY POST – LIVING WITH LONG COVID #4

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This is my fortnightly (hopefully) update on how I’m doing while coping with Long Covid now it’s been 9 months since I first got ill, which I’m adding to my Sunday Post blog, hosted by Kimberly at Caffeinated Review.

I’ve now had three appointments with the reflexologist and it’s definitely making a difference. After my second appointment, my tinnitus got significantly worse – and a couple of days later, I realised why. My inner ear became full of fluid. And after I worked through a very useful series of exercises I discovered on YouTube a few years ago when suffering from a heavy cold, the mucus is now draining down the back of my throat. It’s not painful, though not very pleasant and I’m drinking lots of fluids to ensure my system can deal with it – but neither is it an ongoing infection, as there is no heat or inflammation and I don’t feel unwell. So I think it’s my glands finally getting rid of the infection I suffered with Covid. My thyroid is also feeling a lot better.

The other major breakthrough is that when I’m out walking, I no longer need to use my walking stick, as my balance issues have significantly improved. Although I can still feel a little giddy from time to time, the ground has stopped tilting which means I can also walk faster than the uncertain shuffle I’d been reduced to. It was quite an emotional moment when I was able to hand my stick over to Himself and walk unaided. But I still spend a lot of the day in bed, as I’m sleeping a great deal. I’ll wake in the morning for breakfast and afterwards, turn over and go back to sleep until mid-afternoon. I’m regularly not getting up until 4 pm. But given what’s going on – I think I probably need that sleep to help me continue to heal. I’m still meditating several times a day and I’ve now finished a preliminary edit on Flame and Blame. So far, so good! Yesterday, we had our flu injection at our surgery, which all went very smoothly, so afterwards we continued on to our favourite café and had a cuppa together. A little slice of normality… It was wonderful to sit and chat at a table, while I had a lovely cup of lemon and ginger tea, while Himself tucked into a snack and a cup of black coffee.

I’m still suffering withdrawal symptoms from having finished watching all the Gilmore Girls series – but I am enjoying Virgin River, though there are times when it gets a bit intense. I want to thank you for all your lovely messages of encouragement and hope for my recovery – it means so much.

This week I’ve read:-
A Ghost of Her Own: A Romance – Book 1 of The Ghosts of Riverside County by Alessa Winters

After fighting for every inch of her soul while leaving an abusive relationship, Grace Reddy scrapes herself together and purchases an old, abandoned warehouse in hope that she can start anew. But with the old warehouse comes a new challenge: particularly, the Ghost of a man who died there long ago, who may be unwilling to tolerate this strange person in the only place he can exist.

But something about the Ghost draws her to him, and Grace starts to forge a strange connection with him, something neither of them anticipated but both desperately needed.
This is a low heat, sweet Romance novel with a surprising amount of tension!
That last line of the blurb nicely sums up the tone of this book. The romance is genuinely sweet and very gradual, because the narrative engine of this one is Grace’s battle to disentangle herself from a very toxic relationship. I thoroughly enjoyed both aspects of this gripping story.
8/10

AUDIOBOOK – Layers of Force – Book 8 of the Star Kingdom series by Lindsay Buroker
Even though Professor Casmir Dabrowski has been fighting for months to help the kingdom and humanity as a whole, few people in positions of power have appreciated his unorthodox methods. Now he’s a captive of the king and being taken back to his home world without his friends or the crushers he relies upon to protect him. The king believes Casmir is responsible for the prince’s death and plans to have him publicly executed.

But bigger troubles are brewing for the Star Kingdom, and Casmir may once again be needed to find a creative solution to save his people—and reshape the entire future of the Twelve Systems. First, he’s got to escape and survive. No easy feat for a man stripped of his allies and marked as a rebel and a traitor.
I’ve absolutely loved this wonderful space opera adventure series. How unusual to have a nerdy hero with watering eyes, chronic allergies, who is violently sick every time the spaceship starts slewing around! But Buroker absolutely makes it work. There is so much tension, humour and excitement in this twisty, well plotted instalment – especially as by now I love all the characters. Particularly the combat robots who accompany Casmir. And while I thought this book was the conclusion of the series – I’m delighted to see there is another one. Yay!
10/10

Hot and Badgered: Book 1 of the Honey Badger Shifter Romance series by Shelly Laurenceton

It’s not every day that a beautiful naked woman falls out of the sky and lands face-first on grizzly shifter Berg Dunn’s hotel balcony. Definitely they don’t usually hop up and demand his best gun. Berg gives the lady a grizzly-sized t-shirt and his cell phone, too, just on style points. And then she’s gone, taking his XXXL heart with her. By the time he figures out she’s a honey badger shifter, it’s too late.

Honey badgers are survivors. Brutal, vicious, ill-tempered survivors. Or maybe Charlie Taylor-MacKilligan is just pissed that her useless father is trying to get them all killed again, and won’t even tell her how. Protecting her little sisters has always been her job, and she’s not about to let some pesky giant grizzly protection specialist with a network of every shifter in Manhattan get in her way. Wait. He’s trying to help? Why would he want to do that? He’s cute enough that she just might let him tag along—that is, if he can keep up . . .
Himself read this one first – and it took some persuading to get me to give it a go, as I’m not really into steamy romances, these days. But he said it’s far more about the manic adventures of the honey badger sisters, rather than the romantic relationship. And he’s absolutely right! It’s a madcap farce with loads of fights, as the three sisters take on the world – it’s also very, very funny. Just what I needed!
8/10


Fall of the Argosi – Book 2 of the Ferius Parfax series by Sebastien de Castell


New to the ways of the Argosi, the tribe of wandering philosophers who seek to defeat evil by wit and guile, Ferius Parfax encounters a hideous plague – the Red Scream. Highly contagious, caught by the hearing of a deadly verse, it turns its victims into mindless monsters that destroy all human life they come into contact with. With the help of a deaf boy whom she has saved from two horrifying victims of the plague, she sets out to find the source of the Red Scream and overcome it’s terrifying power. Along the way she is joined by another Argosi, Rosie, who purports to be so much wiser and more adept than Ferius, but who turns out to have her own dark secrets…
I thoroughly enjoyed finding out more about Ferius Parfax, having been a huge fan of the author’s highly successful Spellslinger series. 9/10

Play With Fire – Book 5 of the Kate Shugak series by Dana Stabenow

Formerly the star investigator in the Anchorage D.A’s office, Kate Shugak now tracks down criminals from her Aleut homestead. But she and her wolf-dog Mutt are taking a June break to pick wild morel mushrooms among the charred trees left by a devastating forest fire. In the ashes Kate also uncovers the mysterious corpse of a naked man. And when she is “hired” by a ten-year-old to locate his missing dad, she fears she has already found him. The reason how and why he died, however, is buried deeper than his body. Finding it will lead Kate to the remains of a woolly mammoth in a Fairbanks museum, back to her old lover Jack Morgan, and far afield to an isolated settlement of religious fundamentalists … as she follows a twisted road toward a smoldering evil and the flash point for a macabre murder.
I love this murder mystery series, set in Alaska, with Kate as the investigator. And once again, Stabenow delivers and gripping, thought-provoking whodunit with a beautiful fragile wilderness as a riveting backdrop. If you’re looking for a well written series that genuinely delivers something a bit different – give this one a go.
9/10

Paladin’s Hope – Book 3 of The Saint of Steel series by T. Kingfisher
Piper is a lich-doctor, a physician who works among the dead, determining causes of death for the city guard’s investigations. It’s a peaceful, if solitary profession…until the day when he’s called to the river to examine the latest in a series of mysterious bodies, mangled by some unknown force.

Galen is a paladin of a dead god, lost to holiness and no longer entirely sane. He has long since given up on any hope of love. But when the two men and a brave gnole constable are drawn into the web of the mysterious killer, it’s Galen’s job to protect Piper from the traps that await them. He’s just not sure if he can protect Piper from the most dangerous threat of all…
I’ve loved the first two books in this fascinating series – and when I saw this one was available, I treated myself… The Paladins are beautifully depicted as a group of berserker warriors who are abandoned with terrible consequences when their god suddenly dies. And this entertaining, tense murder mystery gives us a ringside seat into how Galen has been coping since this life-changing event. It was almost impossible to put down until I finished it.
9/10

Every Star a Song – Book 2 of The Ascendance series by Jay Posey
Far in the future, human beings have seeded themselves amongst the stars. Since decoding the language of the universe 8,000 years ago, they have reached the very edges of their known galaxy and built a near-utopia across thousands of worlds, united and ruled by a powerful organization known as the Ascendance. The peaceful stability of their society relies solely on their use of this Deep Language of the cosmos.

Elyth—a former agent of the religious arm of the Ascendance, The First House—is on the run after the events of Every Sky a Grave, when she and the fugitive Varen Fedic exposed the darker side of Ascendance hegemony on a planet called Qel. Though she just wishes to put the past (and Varen) behind her, she is soon tracked and cornered by the Ascendance agents – will she manage to escape?
This is the reading highlight of my week. Elyth is SUCH a cool protagonist and I’ve raved about this one in a review – it will be making my Outstanding Reads of the Year list… 10/10

NOVELLA Contamination – Book 1 of the Space Station Jonathan Bartell series by Patty Jansen

Jonathan Bartell is a young man, just out of university, when he signs up for the position of Quarantine Officer at the Orbital Launch Station. He is part of a crop of students who flocked to study exo-biology when bacteria were discovered on Mars, and who are now all making their living flipping burgers, because the jobs are few and hard to get. He is lucky to get a job in space, no matter how mundane.

Or so he thinks…

Gaby Larsen is a doctor at the tiny hospital at the space station, and she keeps secrets, not because she wants to keep them, but because she is too scared to share them. Because out in space, your worst enemies are your fellow travellers.
I found it a bit difficult to bond with Jonathan – he struck me as a bit petulant and immature in his attitude, although I did like the fact that Jansen was tackling bullying in the workplace. But just as I was beginning to warm up to the character – the story ended and I was left feeling that the book would have been stronger if it had been longer.
7/10

Hessians and Hellhounds – Book 6 of the Manners and Monsters series by Tilly Wallace

One of London’s most recognisable Afflicted is erased from the earth in a fiery way. Whispers spread that a hellhound prowls the streets, snatching the lost souls who have escaped the afterworld. Except, Wycliff is doing no such thing—could there possibly be another such creature in London?

While Hannah and Wycliff investigate the unnatural flames, unrest grows on the streets as someone seeks to unmask how the undead women stave off rot. Someone is agitating for all Afflicted to be eradicated, in a conspiracy that will set the common Englishman against the nobles.

To save the Afflicted and stop the uprising, Wycliff must face the void that whispers his name from an inky darkness. He plans to wrest Hannah free of the curse squeezing her heart, assuming they can get out alive…

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this clever series, set in the Napoleonic era, and it’s original take on zombies and shapeshifters. The romance was beautifully handled and I’ve loved every book. But this last book lacked the surefootedness of the rest of the series, and while the murder mystery worked well, I wasn’t wholly convinced by the finale. But I’m still glad I got to read the others, which I highly recommend.
7/10

AUDIOBOOK – Steel World – Book 1 of the Undying Mercenaries series by B.V. Larson
In the twentieth century Earth sent probes, transmissions and welcoming messages to the stars. Unfortunately, someone noticed. The Galactics arrived with their battle fleet in 2052. Rather than being exterminated under a barrage of hell-burners, Earth joined their vast Empire. Swearing allegiance to our distant alien overlords wasn’t the only requirement for survival. We also had to have something of value to trade, something that neighboring planets would pay their hard-earned credits to buy. As most of the local worlds were too civilized to have a proper army, the only valuable service Earth could provide came in the form of soldiers…someone had to do their dirty work for them, their fighting and dying.

I, James McGill, was born in 2099 on the fringe of the galaxy. When Hegemony Financial denied my loan applications, I was kicked out of the university and I turned to the stars. My first campaign involved the invasion of a mineral-rich planet called Cancri-9, better known as Steel World. The attack didn’t go well, and now Earth has entered a grim struggle for survival.
This gritty military sci fi adventure has been a blast. James is an endearing protagonist, very well depicted by the author and the narration by Mark Boyett really brings him to life. I’ll definitely be listening to more of these adventures, given just how much of an adrenaline ride this one has proved to be.
9/10

Reviews published since my last Sunday Post:-

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* – Review of Every Star a Song – Book 2 of The Ascendance series by Jay Posey

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* – Review of Fall of the Argosi – Book 2 of the Ferius Parfax series by Sebastien de Castell

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Given to Darkness – Book 2 of The Ikiri duology by Phil Williams

Sunday Post – 31st October 2021

Thank you so much for visiting and commenting. I’m very aware that right now, it’s a very one-sided relationship and I don’t know when I’ll be in a position to start to reciprocate. In the meantime, do take care and try to keep well.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Every Song a Star – Book 2 of the Ascendance series by Jay Posey #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #EverySongaStarbookreview

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I am a fan of Posey’s writing – see my reviews of his Outrider series – Outriders and Sungrazer. So I was delighted when last year I had the opportunity to read and review Every Sky a Grave, which took his writing to a new level – would I enjoy the next book in the series as much?

BLURB – Truncated: Far in the future, human beings have seeded themselves amongst the stars. Since decoding the language of the universe 8,000 years ago, they have reached the very edges of their known galaxy and built a near-utopia across thousands of worlds, united and ruled by a powerful organization known as the Ascendance. The peaceful stability of their society relies solely on their use of this Deep Language of the cosmos.

Elyth—a former agent of the religious arm of the Ascendance, The First House—is on the run after the events of Every Sky a Grave, when she and the fugitive Varen Fedic exposed the darker side of Ascendance hegemony on a planet called Qel. Though she just wishes to put the past (and Varen) behind her, she is soon tracked and cornered by the Ascendance agents – will she manage to escape?

REVIEW: Don’t read the full blurb for this one – it contains far too many spoilers regarding Elyth’s initial adventures. And if you have picked this one up without having first read Every Sky a Grave, it’s not a major problem. Some time has passed since the events of the first book, and Posey is sufficiently skilled that you can quickly work out what is going on without needing to know about Elyth’s previous adventures. That said – I think this is an outstanding series, so I’d advise that you read it, anyway.

As with the first book, I was struck by Elyth’s nuanced and subtle characterisation. She is very capable, but spends a lot of time quietly observing from the sidelines – and such characters are tricky to write. It’s all too easy to make them appear overly passive, or plain boring and Elyth is neither. It doesn’t hurt that once again, I was swept up in the cracking story, full of adventure and tension. Which meant I wasn’t sure exactly what was going on for a large portion of the book – other than it wasn’t anything good…

But who is responsible? Could it be the recklessly dangerous Varden? Or maybe one of the scarily clever scientists working for the ruthless organisation partly responsible for running the Ascendance. And amongst the elite team put together to investigate this latest crisis were some thoroughly likeable people who I didn’t want to see either hurt, or find out they’re the villains. Posey’s vivid descriptions of the rogue planet brought the landscape to life in all its threatening beauty. And he has the knack of writing routine so that it’s still gripping, which gives the action scenes extra shock value when they appear to come from nowhere.

All in all, this was an outstanding read. I got to the point where I had nearly finished the book and I didn’t want such a thoroughly satisfying reading experience to end – and that’s when I know I’m in the middle of something special. Very highly recommended for all science fiction readers – and those who enjoy a gripping adventure. While I obtained an arc of Every Song is a Star from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
10/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Fall of the Argosi – Book 2 of the Ferius Parfax series by Sebastien de Castell #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #FalloftheArgosibookreview

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I absolutely loved the Spellslinger series – see my reviews of Spellslinger, Shadowblack, Charmcaster, Soulbinder, Queenslayer and Crownbreaker. So I jumped at the opportunity to catch up with crafty old Ferius Parfax in this second slice of her adventures, in this spinoff of the original series, where we discover where Ferius comes from and what happened to her, before she encountered young Kellen.

BLURB: New to the ways of the Argosi, the tribe of wandering philosophers who seek to defeat evil by wit and guile, Ferius Parfax encounters a hideous plague – the Red Scream. Highly contagious, caught by the hearing of a deadly verse, it turns its victims into mindless monsters that destroy all human life they come into contact with. With the help of a deaf boy whom she has saved from two horrifying victims of the plague, she sets out to find the source of the Red Scream and overcome it’s terrifying power. Along the way she is joined by another Argosi, Rosie, who purports to be so much wiser and more adept than Ferius, but who turns out to have her own dark secrets.

REVIEW: It turns out that I’ve missed out on the first book charting Ferius’s adventures – Way of the Argosi – something I’ll need to rectify soon, as I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all the Spellslinger novels so far. But I didn’t flounder too much as Ferius is an old friend. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of reading the Spellingslinger books, I don’t really think it matters. As this adventure takes place well before Kellen comes onto the scene, you certainly won’t have any trouble working out what is going on. And for those of you who do know the series, then there are all sorts of little gifts along the way – mostly to do with Ferius’s mannerisms that drive her pupil crazy a lot later on.

Back to this adventure – I absolutely loved it. The author knows the protagonist inside and out and it shows. There is a heady mix of major danger, huge emotional stakes and snarky humorous dialogue to lighten the load. I also enjoyed the constant references to the principles of the Argosi way of life, as well as the difficulty in attaining them. It provided an interesting philosophical backdrop to the ongoing drama – where someone who thinks they’re doing the wrong thing for the right reasons, up until they fall off a moral ledge and plunge into terrible evil. Given the stakes, I enjoyed the ongoing discussion throughout the book as to what is the right way to cope with evil.

I’m conscious that I may have given the impression that this book gets caught up in major questions of Right and Wrong – but there’s so much more going on. The story cracks along at a fair pace, so that I kept waiting for the action to ease up a tad, allowing me to put it down and get some sleep. And I didn’t… One of the main reasons why this book is such a page turner, is that we don’t just have one strong female character, but two. Given what a vivid, arresting personality Ferius is, I was also impressed at just how much Rose jumped off the page. She could so easily have been a thoroughly wicked character, instead of the interestingly nuanced, flawed personality that was depicted. Add to the cast list a mute child who only signs in an archaic language, and a stubborn horse – and the adventure has the same quirky humour that I’d come to expect from de Castell’s Spellslinger series, despite the very high body count and bloody action.

I thoroughly enjoyed catching up with Ferius and learning more about this infuriating, enigmatic character who dominated so much of the early Spellslinger books. And whether you’ve read them or not – this fantasy adventure comes highly recommended. While I obtained the arc of Fall of the Argosi from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of ARC Given to Darkness – Book 2 of the Ikiri duology by Phil Williams #BrainfluffARCreview #GiventoDarknessbookreview

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I enjoy Phil’s quirky writing – see my reviews of his Ordshaw series – Under Ordshaw, Blue Angel and The Violent Fae. So I was delighted to also tuck into the first book in this duology last year, Kept in Cages and when Phil contacted me and asked if I’d like a review copy of Given to Darkness, I was delighted.

BLURB: Ikiri demands blood. Whose will it be?

A malevolent force stirs from the heart of the Congo. One child can stop it – but everyone wants her dead. Reece Coburn’s gang have travelled half the world to protect Zipporah, only to find her in more danger than ever. Her violent father is missing, his murderous enemies are coming for them, and her brother’s power is growing stronger. Entire communities are being slaughtered, and it’s only getting worse.

They have to reach Ikiri before its corruption spreads. But there’s a long journey ahead, past ferocious killers and unnatural creatures – and very few people can be trusted along the way.
Can two criminal musicians, an unstable assassin and a compromised spy reach Ikiri alive? What will it cost them along the way?

REVIEW: I’m aware the cover and the blurb make this one sound really dark. And while I cannot deny that there is a lot of mayhem and death – there is also a madcap energy running through the book that means it isn’t an unduly bleak, depressing read. Partly, the lighter tone is down to the magnificently eccentric characters. Of course the classic trope of talented child with awesome powers is personified in Zip – but in this book, she is also shown to be more vulnerable. As her father disappears off, leaving her without a backward glance, it’s down to the American musicians, Leigh-Ann and Reece, to look after her. And then, there’s Katryzna, the Russian assassin – who is now trying to adapt within this group brought together while trying to fight a terrible evil.

Of course, coping with the monsters and constant danger facing them is a major part of the book. But for me, the highlight was watching the members of the group become closer as they end up trying to protect each other. The character forced to make the greatest change is former lone killer, Katryzna. Now aware that she needs to take into account the needs of the other team members, she often ends up having loud arguments with her conscience – a character named Rurik. The dynamic is often very funny as well as poignant, without tipping into caricature. It’s a fine line and Phil walks it well.

There is also the tragedy of what has happened to Zip’s shattered family, which looms over the book in a dark counterpoint, making this one hard to put down. As ever, the action scenes pop and the vivid depiction of the dark evil crawling through the African landscape as they get ever closer to Ikiri nicely winds up the tension. And the climactic denouement doesn’t disappoint. All in all, I really enjoyed this series – Williams’ accomplished writing spins a story full of light and dark, good and evil without ever trying to be moralistic. A memorable read that is highly recommended for fantasy readers looking for something different. The author provided me with a review copy, which in no way has compromised my honest opinion of Given To Darkness.
9/10