Monthly Archives: July 2022

SUNDAY POST – LIVING WITH LONG COVID #20

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

Well, I survived the heatwave when we had temperatures soar into the mid 90s – and before you roll your eyes and scoff at what wusses we are, please bear in mind that only about half our shops and offices have aircon and only a handful of homes. And given that we had the hottest temperature ever recorded in the UK at 104.5° F. further inland, you can also surmise that we’re simply not used to such heat. So much so, that Boomerang Boy’s school saw fit to send the boys off to play football on the astro-turf at around noon on the hottest day of the year. It won’t surprise you to hear that I got a panicked phone call asking for me to go and pick him up as he was suffering from severe heat exhaustion. They weren’t wrong – his face was beetroot, except for a worrying white patch around his mouth and he was finding it difficult to walk in a straight line. Fortunately, although he was wiped out for the rest of the day and still feeling less than his usual shiny self the following day, he managed to bounce back as I ensured he had a tepid shower, drank loads of water and slept with a cooling gelpack under his pillowcase and a cold-water bottle on his feet.

As for my hay fever. It isn’t. I don’t have the right symptoms and neither do they respond at all to any of the hay fever medication. I think it’s the nasal drip now causing major congestion instead, so it’s yet another iteration of the dratted Long Covid. Oh joy… I am thoroughly fed up as my energy levels are being shredded by sneezing fits, severe tinnitus, a constant blocked or runny nose and sore sinuses. The only thing alleviating the symptoms with some effectiveness is the steamer, but even that is only a temporary fix as my nose gets steadily more inflamed and tender.

We are now in the middle of the summer holidays in one of the loveliest parts of the country with wonderful weather, now it has cooled down again. Am I taking the Boomerang Boy to the beach, or the Wetland and Wildfowl Trust, or visiting the Pitch and Putt together, or wandering around Highdown Gardens and having a cuppa at the local café? Nope – none of the above. Because I simply cannot manage it. Neither can I rejoin my Writing Group, or attend a dear friend’s birthday dinner. In short – I feel my life is fading away as I sink into semi-invalidism, whereby I’m losing my friends. I’m not even able to assist in any meaningful way with the household chores. Needless to say – none of is this remotely fair on Himself, either.

Sorry about the rant – but I’m feeling really defeated about the whole business. I have an appointment with the Dr tomorrow, but I’m not particularly hopeful. I’ve been left to struggle with the whole gamut of long covid symptoms pretty much on my own so far – and I don’t hold out much hope that an increasingly hard-pressed NHS has anything much to offer. Thank goodness for books and the light and life the youngsters are bringing into the house!

This week I’ve read:-
As you’ll see, this week there have been far more audiobooks as it’s been a struggle sleeping with my tinnitus screaming and my nose either constantly running or blocked solid.

AUDIOBOOK – Mansfield House by Jane Austen – The Jane Austen Collection: an Audible original
Mansfield House – narrated by Billie Piper

Adopted into the household of her uncle, Sir Thomas Bertram, Fanny Price grows up a meek outsider among her cousins in the unaccustomed elegance of Mansfield Park. Soon after Sir Thomas absents himself on business, Mary Crawford and her brother, Henry, arrive at Mansfield, bringing with them London glamour and the seductive taste for flirtation and theatre that precipitates a crisis.

Directed by Tamsin Collison. With Matt Addis, Lucy Briers, James Corrigan, Scarlett Courtney, Rosalind Eleazar, Jennifer English, Emma Fielding, Ash Hunter, Joel MacCormack, Harry Myers, Esme Scarborough, Lucy Scott, Bert Seymour and Natalie Simpson.
I thoroughly enjoyed Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice. However this one is less successful for me. Listening to Billy Piper’s rendition brought home to me just what a drab little mouse Fanny Price is. I found myself increasingly hoping that Mary Crawford would prevail and that prissy little Fanny would disappear off to become someone’s lady’s companion. That said – this production is excellent. 7/10

AUDIOBOOK – Sherlock Holmes & the Beast of the Stapletons – Book 5 of James Lovegrove’s Sherlock Holmes series by James Lovegrove
1894. The monstrous Hound of the Baskervilles has been dead for five years, along with its no less monstrous owner, the naturalist Jack Stapleton. Sir Henry Baskerville is living contentedly at Baskerville Hall with his new wife Audrey and their three-year-old son Harry.

Until, that is, Audrey’s lifeless body is found on the moors, drained of blood. It would appear some fiendish creature is once more at large on Dartmoor and has, like its predecessor, targeted the unfortunate Baskerville family.

Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson are summoned to Sir Henry’s aid, and our heroes must face a marauding beast that is the very stuff of nightmares. It seems that Stapleton may not have perished in the Great Grimpen Mire after all, as Holmes believed, and is hell-bent on revenge…
I’ve been thoroughly enjoying James Lovegrove’s series which provides a really effective pastiche of Conan Doyle’s world and his most famous private detective. I also appreciate Lovegrove having very slightly tweaked the less attractive traits of sexism and racism that surface in the original canon to give us another twist to this, the most famous of all Sherlock Holmes’s stories. 9/10

AUDIOBOOK – Conspirator – Book 10 of the Foreigner series by C.J. Cherryh
Cajeiri is the young son of the powerful leader of the Western Association-and he has become a target for forces bent on destroying his father’s rule. For Cajeiri is the first “ateva” youth to have lived in a human environment. And after hundreds of years of fragile atevi-human coexistence, he may very well be the first of his people to ever truly understand the so similar-yet so dangerously different-aliens who share his home planet and threaten the hidebound customs of his race.


I am absolutely loving this series. It’s length gives Cherryh an opportunity to really dig deep into the political and social changes wrought upon the atevi and their culture after humans unexpectedly turn up. Bren Cameron becomes embedded into their power structure as translator for the humans, inevitably also drawing down the wrath of a number of political factions – and their black-clad, highly efficient assassins… Once again, I found myself transported to another world with different rules. Daniel May does an outstanding job of narrating this thrilling series. 9/10

Death and the Decorator – Book 21 of the Fethering Mystery series by Simon Brett
Having decided to redecorate Woodside Cottage, Jude has engaged the services of local man Pete, who has painted and decorated the homes of Fethering residents for many years. Pete is currently working on Footscrow House, a large Victorian building which is being converted into holiday flats by a local developer.

Having arranged to meet at ‘Fiasco House’, as it is known locally due to the many failed business enterprises over the years, Jude and Pete make a surprising discovery behind a wall panel: a woman’s handbag! The casual discovery becomes serious when the police identify the handbag’s owner as Anita Garner, a young woman who vanished in suspicious circumstances twenty years earlier.

Determined to find out what really happened to Anita all those years ago, Jude and her neighbour Carole’s investigations plunge them into a maze of deception and murder, as they uncover a number of uncomfortable secrets beneath the serene surface of Fethering life . . .
Jude and Carole team up to try to uncover what happened to Anita – is she buried in a shallow grave somewhere on the South Downs, as the local pub bore insists? This dynamic duo once again get together to discover what happened. An engaging and twisty whodunit set in an English village peppered with shafts of humour. And no… you don’t have to have read the previous twenty books to thoroughly enjoy this one. 9/10

Augusta Hawke – Book 1 of the Augusta Hawke series by G.M. Mailliet
Where are Niko and Zora Norman? Crime writer Augusta Hawke puts her sleuthing skills to the test to solve the mystery of her disappearing neighbors in the first entry in a new series.

While Augusta Hawke is a successful author of eighteen crime novels, since her husband’s death she’s been living vicariously through her Jules Maigret-like detective Claude and his assistant Caroline. Then a handsome police detective appears investigating a real-life mystery.

Where are her neighbors, the Normans? No one has a clue what’s happened – except Augusta. Although she isn’t nosy, spending all day staring out the windows for inspiration means she does notice things. Like the Normans arguing. And that they’ve been missing a week…
This is another contemporary murder mystery with yet another feisty heroine deciding not to let matters lie. I rapidly fell in love with Augusta, whose beguiling first-person narrative drew me in and wouldn’t let me go. Not particularly action-packed, but full of humour and with an enjoyably surprising denouement. Review to follow. 9/10

This week I have posted:

*RE-RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Death and the Decorator – Book 21 of The Fethering Mysteries by Simon Brett

*RE-RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Almost a Dragon – Book 1 of The Wizard and the Dragon series by Al Case

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. I’m here to tell you that Life isn’t all that much fun if you can’t rely on your health…

*RE-RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Death and the Decorator – Book 21 of the Fethering Mysteries by Simon Brett #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #DeathandtheDecoratorbookreview

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I’m a long-standing fan of Simon Brett, so have thoroughly enjoyed other books in this series, including Death on the Downs, The Liar in the Library, The Killer in the Choir and Guilt at the Garage. I also have enjoyed Mrs Pargeter’s Public Relations, as well as the first two books in his entertaining new series The Decluttering Mysteries – The Clutter Corpse and An Untidy Death. So when I saw this offering available, I immediately pounced – and I’m very glad I did…

BLURB: Having decided to redecorate Woodside Cottage, Jude has engaged the services of local man Pete, who has painted and decorated the homes of Fethering residents for many years. Pete is currently working on Footscrow House, a large Victorian building which is being converted into holiday flats by a local developer.

Having arranged to meet at ‘Fiasco House’, as it is known locally due to the many failed business enterprises over the years, Jude and Pete make a surprising discovery behind a wall panel: a woman’s handbag! The casual discovery becomes serious when the police identify the handbag’s owner as Anita Garner, a young woman who vanished in suspicious circumstances twenty years earlier.

Determined to find out what really happened to Anita all those years ago, Jude and her neighbour Carole’s investigations plunge them into a maze of deception and murder, as they uncover a number of uncomfortable secrets beneath the serene surface of Fethering life . . .

REVIEW: Jude and Carole are the proverbial odd couple. In other circumstances, it’s unlikely that they’d ever be more than acquaintances – let alone a duo who have gone on to solve a number of tricky murders. They are such very different personalities – Jude is warm-hearted, open-minded and easy-going, who mostly enjoys her life; while Carole is judgemental, bitterly lonely, socially insecure and naturally secretive. What they both have in common is huge curiosity, an eye for details and inconsistencies, sharp intelligence and a drive to see that Justice is done. There have been times in this series when I find the inevitable friction between them frankly annoying, as it can get in the way of the investigation and makes me want to upend Carole’s glass of wine over her head. However, this time around, I was glad that both women were playing to their strengths.

Brett is an experienced storyteller, with the ability to craft an enjoyably complex whodunit with a satisfying number of possible suspects. And I was delighted to discover that while I’d fleetingly considered the perpetrator – it wasn’t for the right reason, or for the right crime. I love it when an author has me flicking back through the pages to discover the little clues that I’d overlooked. As well as delivering a solidly good murder mystery – I always enjoy Brett’s cutting shafts of humour, as he takes lumps out of the smug, upper middle-class residents of Fethering. All in all, if you enjoy murder mysteries set in an English village that plays with the expectations of this crowded sub-genre in an interesting way, then this one comes highly recommended. And no – you really don’t have to have read any of the former twenty books in the series to thoroughly enjoy this particular offering. While I obtained an arc of Death and the Decorator from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

Review of NETGALLEY arc Almost a Dragon – Book 1 of The Wizard and the Dragon series by Al Case #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #AlmostaDragonbookreview

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I was in the mood for something a bit draconic – I’m always a sucker for a good dragon story – and this cover caught my eye. I skimmed the blurb, thought it sounded intriguing and was pleased when I was approved.

BLURB: DANIEL HARCOURT GRANDSILL: The world enters a new age and Daniel splits into three versions of himself. The version that is most him is tasked with giving a dragon back his wings. But to do that he must become a Wizard…!

GANZL, one third of Daniel, is a great and powerful Wizard, and is the one who must make Daniel into a Wizard.

FFFF is a lowly snake in one age, but in the new age, he is a Messenger of the Gods. But what’s a messenger without wings? Daniel and Ganzl are willing to help him recover his wings…but can a snake trust a human?

NOT your basic find the magic sword/ring/whatever and save the world fantasy. This is humans at their best and worst, this is a philosophy of men and magic, this is a history of Dragons and Gods.

REVIEW: This is essentially a portal fantasy adventure, where poor old Daniel finds himself plonked in the middle of a medieval-type world with two companions who apparently don’t regard him all that highly. Indeed, throughout the story they continue to have conversations about whether they ought to get rid of him – but then decide to keep him along, anyway. Mostly for the amusement that he provides, as they scoff constantly at his ignorance and knack for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.

While I’m not too sure that Case’s claim about this not being your average epic fantasy adventure completely holds up – this tale is filled with elements that are as cosily familiar as a cup of late-night cocoa – there is one major difference. Case’s main protagonist is one of the most passive heroes I’ve encountered in an epic fantasy. And that is, indeed, a striking difference. I did like the premise that someone dumped in the middle of a world he doesn’t know would struggle every bit as badly as Daniel. However, my problem was that in a relatively short time I loathed Ganzl and the dratted snake. As I tend to skim blurbs, due to their habit of being far too chatty about the plot – I hadn’t appreciated that the arrogant wizard and his sniggering snake were all aspects of Daniel’s personality. I suppose if I had grasped that fact, some of the snark might have come across as more amusing and less unpleasantly bullying.

I thought Daniel’s initial struggles to come to terms with the sudden shifting of the world around him was very well done. Indeed, I really liked the character and his persona within the contemporary world that he’d lost and one of the reasons why I kept turning the pages, was that I was hoping he’d get his feet under him sufficiently to regain some of that original personality. It was brave decision to make the main protagonist quite so adrift – however, I don’t think Case succeeded in giving us a core character the reader could adequately identify with throughout the various adventures. It seemed the trio were on some kind of quest that Ganzl and Ffff were aware of, but Daniel was clueless about. However, as I hadn’t formed any kind of bond whatsoever with the snake and the wizard, when the snake became dangerously ill – I simply didn’t care.

What did keep me turning the pages was the driving pace, vivid worldbuilding and quirky adventures – and maybe the hope that the wizard would come to a sticky end… While I’m not tempted to read the next book in the series, there is a strong conclusion to this slice of the adventure and this quirky, if rather flawed offering, could certainly appeal to fans of epic fantasy who enjoy something a bit different and appreciate the humour, which rather missed me. While I obtained an arc of Almost a Dragon from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
7/10

*RE-RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Half a Soul – Book 1 of the Regency Faerie Tales series by Olivia Atwater #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #HalfaSoulbookreview

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I’ve been needing some series escapist charm in my life ever since I was first smitten with long COVID well over a year ago – and this one looked just the ticket. Indeed, the cover reminded me of the wonderful Stariel series by A.J. Lancaster. Would my expectations be fulfilled?

BLURB: Ever since she was cursed by a faerie, Theodora Ettings has had no sense of fear or embarrassment – a condition which makes her prone to accidental scandal. Dora hopes to be a quiet, sensible wallflower during the London Season – but when the strange, handsome and utterly uncouth Lord Sorcier discovers her condition, she is instead drawn into dangerous and peculiar faerie affairs.

If Dora’s reputation can survive both her curse and her sudden connection with the least-liked man in all of high society, then she may yet reclaim her normal place in the world. . . but the longer Dora spends with Elias Wilder, the more she begins to suspect that one may indeed fall in love, even with only half a soul.

REVIEW: To be honest, the blurb makes this quirky, enjoyable offering sound more ordinary than it actually is. Dora is an interesting heroine, given that she has sustained a terrible injury right at the beginning of the book and throughout, she is successfully portrayed as someone who is slightly at odds with social expectations. It’s technically a tricky characterisation to pull off – if she is too weird, then it just gets embarrassing and a tad annoying, yet if she isn’t odd enough, then the whole premise falls flat. I think Atwater does a really fine job in portraying someone who is constantly struggling to find the appropriate social persona without compromising the character, or silting up the pace.

I also enjoyed the anger against the yawning gulf between rich and poor that is expressed within the story. There were, indeed, well-born men and women of the day who felt outraged at suffering of those less fortunate than themselves and it’s refreshing to see a social reformer as a main protagonist in a Regency romance. It certainly gives the story a bit of heft, especially when we come to the fae and their reactions to the land of mortals. This became a real page-turner that I couldn’t put down until I reached the end – which tied up the story very satisfactorily. I’m delighted to note that there are other books available in this entertaining series, which I’ll certainly be tracking down. Highly recommended for fans of historical romance with a fantasy twist. While I obtained an arc of Half a Soul from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

SUNDAY POST – LIVING WITH LONG COVID #19

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

I’ve always loved the heat and found the lack of light and warmth in English winters an ongoing challenge. But as with so many other things that have changed since I had covid last March, that apparently is no longer the case. I was a bit taken aback last winter when I kept having to turn down the heating – and now I’m finding the warm nights and hot days simply exhausting, whereas before, they used to fire me up and fill me full of energy. So I spent two days in bed last week, though I did manage to get up to see our boomerang boy off to school in the mornings without too much difficulty.

I never used to have any windows open at night, even in the warmest weather. And that was partly because I was never that hot, but also because the cooler weather would bring down the pollen and trigger my hay fever, which otherwise these days is very well behaved. We’ll have to go back to keeping those windows shut as I’m now in a position where I could take a role in Snow White and the Seven Dwarves as Sneezy. And I’m here to tell you that sneezing 20+ times in a row leaves you wrung out. Thank goodness I wasn’t trying to drive the car! Today is supposed to be the start of the hottest spell we’ve ever endured in the UK – and I’m dreading it. I don’t like to think of the poor souls living in big cities, as at least we get the benefit of the onshore sea breeze most afternoons which helps a bit. We also live in a brick-built house, so it tends to keep warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. In common with almost everyone else in the UK, we don’t have aircon although we do use fans throughout the night.

I have been watching a bit more TV in this heat – Boomerang Boy and I are enjoying Stranger Things together and I’ve just finished watching The Midwich Cuckoos, which I thought was brilliantly updated and adapted for a contemporary audience.

This week I’ve read:-

AUDIOBOOK – Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen – The Jane Austen Collection: an Audible original
Pride and Prejudice – narrated by Claire Foy

Pride and Prejudice is centred around the Bennet family, their five unmarried daughters and their mother’s desperation for at least one of them to make a wealthy match to save the family from destitution. When Charles Bingley moves into Netherfield, a nearby estate, it seems that Jane, the eldest daughter, may have found her match, but it also introduces our heroine Elizabeth to Bingley’s friend, the aloof Mr Darcy.

Directed by Nicolette Chin. With Tarrick Benham, Nicole Davis, Barnaby Edwards, Billie Fulford-Brown, Rebecca Front, Emma Gregory, Ferdinand Kingsley, Chris Lew Kum Hoi, Tim McInnerny, Heather Nicol, Sarah Ovens, Janet Prince, Jenny Rainsford, Jennifer Saayeng, Sam Stafford, Katy Sobey, Homer Todiwala, Patience Tomlinson and Simon Yadoo.
I’ve already had the pleasure of listening to Sense and Sensibility and this offering is the next one in this excellent collection of Jane Austen novels to listen to. It’s a solid favourite and has been dramatised very well. 9/10

AUDIOBOOK – A Free Man of Color – Book 1 of the Benjamin January series by Barbara Hambly
It is 1833. In the midst of Mardi Gras, Benjamin January, a Creole physician and music teacher, is playing piano at the Salle d’Orleans when the evenings festivities are interrupted by murder.

Ravishing Angelique Crozat, a notorious octoroon who travels in the city’s finest company, has been strangled to death. With the authorities reluctant to become involved, Ben begins his own inquiry, which will take him through the seamy haunts of riverboatmen and into the huts of voodoo-worshipping slaves.

But soon the eyes of suspicion turn toward Ben for, black as the slave who fathered him, this free man of color is still the perfect scapegoat. . . .
And this is why I’m such a huge fan of Netgalley. Not long ago, I read and thoroughly enjoyed Death and Hard Cider, which was the nineteenth book in the series. So I went hunting and discovered the audiobook of this, the first book. What an absolute treat! A cracking murder mystery in a decadent and luscious setting with a thoroughly likeable protagonist. I’m definitely going to be revisiting this series again. 10/10

Against All Gods – Book 1 of The Age of Bronze series by Miles Cameron
The gods play their games, looking down on the mortal realm and moving men as pawns. Sacrificing lives, towns, even civilisations as they make moves against each other, oblivious to and uncaring of the suffering it causes.

They are above it all: worshipped, emulated and admired.

Yet there is one among them who exists to sow chaos, to challenge the way of things, and to stir up trouble. One who sees the gods growing indolent and contented and selfish . . . and who is ready to meddle in the world of men. Not as part of the immortal game, but because they believe it’s possible for men to challenge . . . and even topple . . . the gods themselves.
I am a fan of Cameron’s writing – I thoroughly enjoyed The Traitor Son series and last year his space opera adventure Artifact Space was a reading highlight of the year. But this one was very bloody, despite being well written, which I found a tad difficult at times. I also would have liked at least one of the plotpoints to be tied up by the end, rather than the whole storyline left on a cliff-hanger. 8/10

Last Wish – Book 4 of the Highland Magic series by Helen Harper
It’s not easy pretending to be dead – especially when it feels as if you have the weight of the world on your shoulders. Between an unfulfilled prophecy, the demon-occupied Lowlands, the continuing power of murderous Aifric Moncrieffe – not to mention her constant yearnings for Byron – Integrity Adair has a lot to worry about.

Still, how hard can it really be to save Scotland, maintain her morals, get the guy and keep her sense of humour?
This is the last book in this delightfully quirky fantasy series. I suppose it’s urban fantasy as it hits many of the genre tropes – a feisty heroine, lots of snark, a few steamy interludes. But it’s set in a Scotland where the Lowlands, including Edinburgh, have been occupied by demons for the past 300 years. Integrity Adair is huge fun and this was one of those reads where I was torn between wanting to know what happens next – and wanting the book to go on for a long, long time, as I didn’t want to part company with Integrity. Or Bob the genie. Or Tipsy. Or May the demon… It takes skill and technique to successfully bring an entertaining series to a satisfying close, but then Harper never disappoints. She has become one of my go-to authors when I want a fun-filled read full of action and humour.
10/10

Half a Soul – Book 1 of the Regency Faerie Tales series by Olivia Atwater
Ever since she was cursed by a faerie, Theodora Ettings has had no sense of fear or embarrassment – a condition which makes her prone to accidental scandal. Dora hopes to be a quiet, sensible wallflower during the London Season – but when the strange, handsome and utterly uncouth Lord Sorcier discovers her condition, she is instead drawn into dangerous and peculiar faerie affairs.

If Dora’s reputation can survive both her curse and her sudden connection with the least-liked man in all of high society, then she may yet reclaim her normal place in the world. . . but the longer Dora spends with Elias Wilder, the more she begins to suspect that one may indeed fall in love, even with only half a soul.
This was another enjoyable escapist read full of fun and tension. Dora is beautifully written – compromised protagonists take a lot of skill to get right and Atwater nails it. I loved the unfolding romance and the social reform aspect, which was very well depicted within the narrative. Review to follow. 9/10

This week I have posted:

Can’t-Wait-Wednesday featuring The First Binding – Book 1 of the Tales of Tremaine series by R.R. Virdi

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Against All Gods – Book 1 of The Age of Bronze series by Miles Cameron

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.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Against All Gods – Book 1 of The Age of Bronze series by Miles Cameron #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #AgainstAllGodsbookreview

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I’m a fan of Miles Cameron’s writing – see my reviews of The Traitor Son series – The Red Knight, The Fell Sword, The Dread Wyrm and The Fall of Dragons – as well as his space opera adventure Artifact Space, which I very much hope he is going to continue. So when I saw this one on Netgalley, I was delighted to be approved for it.

BLURB: The gods play their games, looking down on the mortal realm and moving men as pawns. Sacrificing lives, towns, even civilisations as they make moves against each other, oblivious to and uncaring of the suffering it causes. They are above it all: worshipped, emulated and admired.

Yet there is one among them who exists to sow chaos, to challenge the way of things, and to stir up trouble. One who sees the gods growing indolent and contented and selfish . . . and who is ready to meddle in the world of men. Not as part of the immortal game, but because they believe it’s possible for men to challenge . . . and even topple . . . the gods themselves.

REVIEW: I’ve seen this book compared to Madeline Miller and her novels set within the Greek pantheon and I’m rather uncomfortable with that comparison – this one is far closer in tone and style to Dan Simmons, the other author cited in the strapline. While the Greek gods are certainly a self-absorbed lot, who don’t treat their mortal worshippers with much regard – they are frankly paragons of virtue when set against the sorry lot who feature in Cameron’s Heaven. Every single one of them is busy plotting to gain power or in revenge against another of their number. Most look upon humanity as merely insects to be disposed of with as little thought or care. And some of the bloody deeds that are suffered by said humanity are horrible – all the more so because the gods simply don’t care.

It took me a while to get through this one, despite it being well written with an engrossing plot – because I found the sheer bloodiness a bit of a problem at times. I’m well aware that is probably more about my own mindset at present, rather than an issue with the storytelling. But I’m giving it a mention because if you are a tad squeamish about scenes of senseless brutality and torture, then this one might not be for you. That said, out of the carnage stagger a number of characters who somehow survive the sacking of a city and terrible punishments designed to act as a deterrent. There is a dancer, an orphan boy and his donkey, a warrior, a former warlord and a scribe who end up on a boat managed and crewed by a merchanting family who belong to a sect of pacifists. And when together, there is a fair amount of humour within their interactions, albeit sometimes on the grim side. Some of these characters also have magical abilities they can wield with varying amounts of skill and strength. I do like the fact that any magic is very draining and can only be wielded for a finite amount of time, before it uses up the practitioner. They also have an extraordinary passenger – one of the Bright Ones, who often attack and kill travellers in the desert, except this creature seems intent on saving their lives.

This unlikely group are plunged into all sorts of extreme adventures which are described with verve and vividness. No one writes battle scenes better than Cameron, who is also an experienced historical battle re-enactor who has fought in armour. As the story gained momentum, I got to a point when I found this one difficult to put down – but do be warned, it does end on a cliff-hanger with a number of important plot points left dangling. Recommended for fans of epic fantasy stories featuring gods and plenty of action. While I obtained an arc of Against All Gods from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 13th July, 2022 #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 – The First Binding – Book 1 of the Tales of Tremaine series by R.R. Virdi – release date – 18th August, 2022

#epic fantasy #myths and legends #magic

BLURB: All legends are born of truths. And just as much lies. These are mine. Judge me for what you will. But you will hear my story first.

I buried the village of Ampur under a mountain of ice and snow. Then I killed their god. I’ve stolen old magics and been cursed for it. I started a war with those that walked before mankind and lost the princess I loved, and wanted to save. I’ve called lightning and bound fire. I am legend. And I am a monster.

My name is Ari.

And this is the story of how I let loose the first evil.

This is described as The Name of the Wind meets The City of Brass – and given that I’m a huge fan of both books, I felt this one had to be on my TBR. Anyone else giving this one a whirl?

SUNDAY POST – LIVING WITH LONG COVID #18

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

I’m aware that it has been quite a while since I’ve touched base with everyone here. In the past, that generally meant I’d been enduring another prolonged spell in bed, utterly exhausted. And while I’ve had to spend the occasional day lying down – mostly this time around, there are other reasons.

Firstly, at the end of June I celebrated a significant birthday – not one I was particularly looking forward to, I have to add. The upside was that I shared my party with my youngest granddaughter, Eliza, who was very thrilled to turn four. The pics are of her side of the party – we adults generally just sat around and chatted, so were far less photogenic. Our boomerang boy is back with us again, as he enjoys our company and he lights up the house with his joking and fun. Thirdly, my lovely sister had a nasty car accident a couple of weeks ago. Fortunately she wasn’t seriously injured but she was bruised and shaken and her beloved car was written off. Her guardian angel was definitely sitting on her shoulder that day, as it so easily could have been so much worse. And we have just come to the end of Wimbledon fortnight. I’m not a huge sports fan, but I do love watching grass court tennis – and it’s been a joy being able to fully engage with the tournament. Last year while I went through the motions of watching, I really didn’t have the energy to care, and in 2020 it was cancelled due to the pandemic.

Before I was ill, I was able to cope with doing several things at once – that no longer is that case. I’m hoping this is temporary and there will come a time when I can once again keep up with writing, blogging, reading AND watching Wimbledon. But that isn’t happening, right now. Not that I’m too upset, as it isn’t all that long ago that I was regularly stuck in bed too tired to do much before 2 pm in the afternoon. Now, I’m getting up at 7 am on schooldays – sometimes I go back to bed once the school run is over, but often I stay up for the rest of the day. This is amazing progress, but I’m aware that I still have a mountain to climb. One of my current issues is how stiff and sore I am after spending over a year largely in bed. I will be adding exercises to get stronger and fitter in due course, but right now everything hurts too much! My electric massager has been a huge help to loosen sore muscles first thing in the morning, especially in my lower back, thighs and upper arms and if it gets too miserable, I take the occasional ibuprofen tablet.

We are enjoying a spell of really warm weather – we haven’t had any rain for over a week now and the temperature has been up in the 70s and it looks as though it’s set to stay that way for the coming week. I enjoy it, but Himself is suffering as he doesn’t get on with too much heat. What with everything that’s been going on, I haven’t been doing all that much reading recently, although I’m still listening to audiobooks as I drift off to sleep – they’re a lifesaver!

This past fortnight I’ve read:-

Stuck in Magic – Book 1 of the Stuck in Magic series by Christopher G. Nuttall
Elliot Richardson thought he’d lost everything. He’d come home from deployment to find his wife cheating on him, his sons strangers and his life in tatters. Driving away, unsure where he was going, he fell through an interdimensional rift and found himself in a very different world, a city of magic and mystery and dangers beyond his comprehension, a land spinning out of control as innovations from the distant west unsettle the monarchy and challenge the position of the aristocrats and warlords that hold the kingdom in their grasp.

Powerless and alone, with no way home, Elliot struggles to survive long enough to make a new life. But as war looms on the horizon, he finds himself forced to use his skills to make a name for himself, all too aware that the slightest slip will mean instant death – or worse.
This is a spinoff from the superb long-running Schooled in Magic series that has been one of my lifeline reads throughout the last year. I love the contrast between poor old Elliot and Emily, who are both refugees from Earth. Elliot is a vet from Afghanistan with no magical powers or powerful allies. I’m delighted to discover there is another book in the series. 9/10

AUDIOBOOK – Sherlock Holmes and the Shadwell Shadows – Book 1 of the James Lovegrove’s Sherlock Holmes series
In the stews of London’s East End, an outbreak of insanity sees ordinary men and women reduced to gibbering, incoherent wrecks; a mysterious creeping fog hides terrifying apparitions within that rob the wits of all who see them and even inspire suicide.

Sherlock Holmes, in the infancy of his detecting career, deduces a connection between these sinister “shadows” and an Oriental drug lord who is bent on expanding his criminal empire. Yet there are even more sinister forces at work, as the great detective faces a challenge so fearsome and deadly that his career may be over almost as soon as it has begun.
I am a solid fan of Lovegrove’s writing and his take on Sherlock Holmes’ adventures is a joy. It’s especially clever as there are two versions. One series of books are straightforward additions to the Conan Doyle canon, while the other puts a Lovecraftian spin on them… It’s done very cleverly and even uses Lovegrove’s name as part of the backstory. This is the first of the fantasy adventures that Holmes and Watson tackle. 9/10

AUDIOBOOK – Rotten to the Core – Book 8 of the Lady Hardcastle Mysteries by T.E. Kinsey
Summer 1911. A scorching heatwave engulfs the quiet town of Littleton Cotterell and brings about an unusually early harvest. The villagers are thrilled, but events quickly turn sour when one of them turns up dead in an apple orchard, stabbed through the heart. Amateur sleuth Lady Hardcastle and her trusty lady’s maid, Flo, suddenly have a juicy case on their hands. Might the mysterious stranger they recently met in the village be to blame?

When a second cider-related murder takes place, it quickly becomes clear that there’s more to these mysterious deaths than meets the eye. The daring duo uncover whispers of an ancient order and moonlit rituals. And evidence points to a macabre secret in the village stretching back years. A secret someone will do anything―anything at all―to keep hidden.
I’ve been pining for more Littleton Cotterell delight. And this one picks up just a day after The Fatal Flying Affair. While I do enjoy following the well crafted murder mysteries in this series – for me, it’s really about the delightful relationship between Lady H and Flo. And for a long-lost time before the horrors of WWI… This one is particularly good, with a lovely twisty plot and lots of enjoyable shafts of gentle humour throughout. 10/10

AUDIOBOOK – Deliverer – Book 9 (Sequence 3, Book 3) of the Foreigner series by C.J. Cherryh
In the aftermath of civil war, the world of the atevi is still perilously unstable. Tabini-aiji, powerful ruler of the Western Association, along with his son and heir Cajeiri, and his human paidhi, Bren Cameron, have returned to the seat of power. The usurper, Murini, has escaped to the lands of his supporters, but the danger these rebels pose is far from over. Ilisidi, Tabini’s grandmother, the aiji-dowager, has returned to her ancient castle in the East, for she has powerful ties in the lands of the rebels, and she seeks to muster whatever support for her grandson that she can from among those enemy strongholds.

The long-running Foreigner series can also be enjoyed by more casual genre readers in sub-trilogy installments. Deliverer is the 9th Foreigner novel. It is also the 3rd book in the third subtrilogy.
This is yet another excellent audiobook series I’m following that never disappoints. Daniel May has nailed bringing to life the various crises that come in the wake of the attempted rebellion, so that Cherryh’s wonderful aliens are solidly three-dimensional characters. As for Bren, he is once again plunged right in the middle of this latest emergency, as the only human translator and ambassador living on the mainland amongst this lethal and fascinating species. 9/10

This last week I have posted:

Can’t-Wait-Wednesday featuring The Last Feather by Shameez Patel Papathanasiou

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of What Rough Beast by Michael R. Johnston

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.

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 6th July, 2022 #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 – The Last Feather by Shameez Patel Papathanasiou – release date – 19th July, 2022

#fantasy #feisty heroine #magic

BLURB: Twenty-two-year-old Cassia’s sister is dying, and she doesn’t know why. Soon after, Cassia wakes up in another realm, not only does she find her missing best friend, Lucas, but he knows how to save her sister.

Meanwhile Lucas is part of a community of Reborns, people who were born on earth and after death, were reborn in this realm with magical abilities. The original beings of the realm, the Firsts, rule over them.

But, to keep the Reborn numbers manageable, the king of the Firsts releases a curse to cull them and Cassia finds herself in the middle of it. She needs to break the curse before her time runs out, otherwise she will be trapped there forever.

I like the sound of this one – and the fact that the author is South African. So it’s likely that the tone and feel of this story will be different. Besides – a portal adventure and a curse? I’m hoping it will live up to expectations!

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc What Rough Beast – Book 3 of the Remembrance War by Michael R. Johnston #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #WhatRoughBeastbookreview

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This is the final book in this tumultuous and action-filled military space opera adventure – and I’m so very glad that I took the time to read the first two books before embarking on this one. Indeed, I listened to the first book on audio, which is very well done and I’m hoping the publishers will produce the next two books in this entertaining trilogy. I’ll definitely be keeping a lookout for Johnston’s next offering.

BLURB: As the Zhen Empire descends into civil war, Tajen, Liam, and Katherine each have their own part to play in the final conflict between the human race and the Zhen Empire. As Tajen searches the outer regions in an attempt to find and recruit Zhen deserters to his side, Katherine heads for Marauder space to seek out technology their Tabran allies need.

Liam, believing his two best friends dead, must keep the human fleet alive as it is pursued across the Empire by Zhen forces. As the final battle approaches, each of them will be tested to their limits.

REVIEW: First things first – if you have picked up this one without reading the previous two books in this trilogy, instead seek out The Widening Gyre, which is the first book. While Johnston provides an excellent ‘Story So Far’ roundup at the beginning, you necessarily won’t get anything other than the bare bones of the story. And one of the main strengths of the narrative is how the main characters grow and change in the face of the challenges confronting them.

Secondly, for those of you who, like me, are interested in such things, I was intrigued by the titles – not least because they rang annoying bells that I know I’d have recalled before being smitten with Long Covid. And sure enough, Johnston helpfully provides a copy of the poem ‘The Second Coming’ by W.B. Yeats from where all his titles originate. It’s a fabulous piece of writing and nicely chimes with the overarching menace facing humanity in this adventure.

I’m not going to claim that this adventure is anything particularly original – the scenario of nasty aliens threatening to expunge humanity from the universe is as cosily familiar as a late-night cup of cocoa. However, the manner in which our hapless species has been done over by the Zhen Empire is particularly nasty. And yet makes absolute sense in a way that the reasoning behind alien hostility all too often doesn’t. I also appreciated the way that Johnston doesn’t simply lump all the nasty aliens together as ‘the baddies’, while put-upon humans are elevated to a minor sainthood. Nope – in his world there are human agents who believe the species can only ultimately survive by being in thrall to the Zhen and work against the fight to free humanity every bit as passionately as the most committed Zhen supremacist. Meanwhile, one of Tajen’s most loyal supporters is one of his former Zhen comrades. It’s enjoyable to see such nuances in play, as it keeps the reader wondering who is truly trustworthy, as well as feeling more believable.

Tajen is the main protagonist and his storyline is the overarching narrative arc. While he is the classic adrenaline-junkie hero who flings himself into risky scenarios, I was interested to note that he is also gay. His relationship with his husband is written with tenderness and conviction, giving it importance in the story, yet without any graphic sex scenes or a sense that Johnston is trying to make a point. So it works really well. Though in this book, Tajen doesn’t get much opportunity to spend time with his friends and family, as our plucky band are scattered throughout the galaxy as they desperately try to prevail against overwhelming odds. Indeed, it’s foot-to-the-floor action throughout and the pages turned themselves as I wanted to discover who was doing what to whom – and whether they would all survive. Space opera is difficult to write well and I enjoy it when I can simply relax and let the author do his thing, because he’s nailed the conventions and knows how to transfer from one scene to another without jarring or annoying the reader – which is a skill far too many don’t manage effectively.

All in all, this book was a thoroughly enjoyable conclusion to an entertaining, well-written space opera trilogy, and comes recommended to fans of the genre. I’m hoping Johnston is going to revisit this world in due course, as there is lots of scope for more adventures with some of the other characters we encountered. While I obtained an arc of The Veiled Masters from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10