*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Outlaws Scarlett & Browne – Book 1 of The Outlaws Scarlett & Browne series by Jonathan Stroud #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #TheOutlawsScarlett&Brownebookreview

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Anyone who is a regular visitor knows I’m a huge fan of Stroud’s writing – see my review of The Amulet of Samarkand, the first book in the fabulous Bartimaeus trilogy, and my reviews of The Screaming Staircase, The Whispering Skull, and The Empty Grave. And yes… I know that Stroud’s writing is aimed at children and the YA market – but he’s one of those wonderfully talented writers who is simply too good to leave just to the youngsters. And I, for one, have never found that his writing ever to be anything other than clever, nuanced and demanding.

BLURB: Set in a fragmented future England, The Outlaws Scarlett and Browne introduces us to a world where gunfights and monsters collide, and where the formidable outlaw Scarlett McCain fights daily against the odds. When she discovers a wrecked coach on a lonely road, there is only one survivor – the seemingly hapless youth, Albert Browne. Against her instincts, Scarlett agrees to escort him to safety. This is a mistake. Soon, new and implacable enemies are on her heels. As a relentless pursuit continues across the broken landscape of England, Scarlett must fight to uncover the secrets of Albert’s past – and come to terms with the implications of her own.

REVIEW: It was interesting to read this one so soon after I’ve completed The Rampart trilogy by M.R. Carey, because the setting is very similar. A hostile post-apocalyptic England, where there are all sorts of wild beasts and cannibalistic tribes roaming around looking for an easy snack. Civilised settlements are small oases where food, clothing and supplies can be found, along with law and order and safety. But Scarlett doesn’t make a habit of spending much time in one of the settled towns – other than to rob the bank. She doesn’t like the Faith House network, which is constantly looking for people who have deviated from the physical and mental norms (think of John Wynham’s The Chrysalids). She is not afraid of a fight, being an excellent shot and very good in a scrap – she wouldn’t have survived in the wilds, otherwise.

By contrast, Arthur Brown is a walking disaster. He has no instinct whatsoever for keeping himself safe and is liable to fall over his own feet, or get distracted by some pretty-looking seed pods or butterflies, rather than pay attention to the business of keeping himself alive. When chance brings these two together, Scarlett’s one instinct is to offload such a liability as fast as she possibly can – and the growing relationship between them was beautifully handled. It could have so easily puddled into sentimentality or lurve – and it does neither of those things.

Along the way, all sorts of adventures happen to this unlikely duo which steadily reveals more and more of this fascinating, blighted world. I highly recommend this one to anyone who enjoyed Carey’s Rampart trilogy. It’s sufficiently different to be enjoyable in its own right – and certainly provides an interesting backdrop to two fascinating, complicated characters and I can’t wait to see where Stroud will next take this adventure. While I obtained an arc of The Outlaws Scarlett & Brown from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
10/10

Friday Faceoff – And all addictions were brown. Coffee, chocolate and his eyes… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoffbrowncovers

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this week we are featuring BROWN covers. I’ve selected The Naturalist series by Andrew Mayne. I haven’t yet read any of the books, though the first one is on my TBR…

 

The Naturalist was published by Thomas & Mercer in October 2017. It’s rare I want to reach out and STROKE a cover, but that is exactly what I want to do with this one. I also very much like that the font is given sufficient attention. It might be relatively white and plain – but just look at the way it pops against that rich brown. I get the sense the colour choice is deliberate rather than because nobody could be bothered to consider anything else. I love the way the title and author fonts appear to be sinking into that luxuriant coat. This is so nearly my favourite…

 

Published in March 2018 by Thomas & Mercer, they’ve nailed the cover of this second book in the series, too. It is apparently such a simple design, but I cannot take my eyes off it. The richness of the fallen leaves half covering bones… the fact we cannot quite make out exactly what they are is tantalising, adding to the sense of mystery. And again, the title and author fonts have been masterfully handled. I love the clean uncluttered look of this classy offering. This is how covers should look, people! Not that I’m ranting. At all. And in case you hadn’t already guessed – this one is my favourite.

 

Murder Theory, the third book in The Naturalist series, was published in February 2019 by Thomas & Mercer and once again, features an eye-catching natural scene that mesmerises. The fractured wood with the spatters of blood flicking across the title and author fonts is so very clever and telling. And no chatter or blurb to detract from the power of that design. Another lovely, well crafted cover that makes me want to pick this one up…

 

Thomas & Mercer published Dark Pattern in October 2019 – clearly going for a quick-release strategy to keep readers keen to continue to follow the story. It doesn’t hurt that they also have produced stormingly good covers to help with the marketing. I love that stick, which also looks a bit like a snake with an open mouth. The way the fern encroaches on the font adds to the pleasing detail. I really love all these covers – and just wish that more books had the same classy look. Thomas & Mercer rock! Which is your favourite?






*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Murder Served Cold – Book 6 of the Langham and Dupré Mystery series by Eric Brown #Brainfluffbookreview #MurderServedColdbookreview

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I’ve enjoyed this cosy mystery series that deliberately harks back to the golden era of this genre – see my review of Murder Takes a Turn.

November, 1956. Lord Elsmere, an old friend of Donald Langham’s literary agent, Charles Elder, is in a pickle – his favourite painting, a Gainsborough, has been stolen from under his nose. What’s more, there’s no evidence of a break-in. The family heirloom was recently re-insured for a hefty price, and Elsmere is struggling financially. Could he have staged the theft, or was it taken by one of the guests? Old Major Rutherford, evasive beauty Rebecca Miles, Dutch war hero Patrick Verlinden, Elsmere’s son Dudley Mariner and his statuesque sculpture fiancée, Esmeralda Bellamy, are all guests at the manor. But who would steal the painting, and why? Private investigators Langham and Ralph Ryland take on the case and soon uncover seething animosities, jealousy, secrets and deception, before events take a shocking turn…

And if this setup seems as comfortingly familiar as a late-night cup of cocoa, then you’re right. This is the classic country-house murder mystery chock-full of likely suspects, with Donald and Ralph slogging through the forest of clues and red herrings to try and make sense of the puzzle, before tracking down the perpetrator. I really enjoyed this one. The murder mystery was intriguing, linked as it was to the theft of the Gainsborough and I particularly liked the denouement as it connected directly with the historical period when this story was set.

Brown’s writing superpower is depicting setting – the landscape he evokes in a future version of Paris in his science fiction adventure Engineman is outstanding and has seeped into my inscape. So having a thoroughly satisfying cosy mystery set in such a strong backdrop, where the social and political issues are taken into account is a real bonus. I’ve found myself thinking about this one several times since I finished it – always a sign of a successful book – and I highly recommend Murder Served Cold to fans of well-written country house murder mysteries.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Murder Takes a Turn – Book 5 of the Langham and Dupré Mystery series by Eric Brown #Brainfluffbookreview #MurderTakesaTurnbookreview

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I picked this one up because the author is one I enjoy – as well as writing this historical murder mystery series, he also has written a number of successful science fiction novels. Indeed, Engineman, has one of the most memorable backdrops I’ve encountered in science fiction, outside a C.J. Cherryh novel.

When Langham’s literary agent receives a cryptic letter inviting him to spend the weekend at the grand Cornish home of successful novelist Denbigh Connaught, Charles Elder seems reluctant to attend. What really happened between Elder and Connaught during the summer of 1917, nearly forty years before – and why has it had such a devastating effect on Charles? Accompanying his agent to Connaught House, Langham and his wife Maria discover that Charles is not the only one to have received a letter. But why has Denbigh Connaught gathered together a group of people who each bear him a grudge? When a body is discovered in Connaught’s study, the ensuing investigation uncovers dark secrets that haunt the past of each and every guest – including Charles Elder himself …

And if the cover and tone of the blurb remind you of an Agatha Christie novel, you’re absolutely right. The way the book unfolds is clearly a nod in the direction of the Grand Dame of Crime. I liked the main protagonists – it’s a refreshing change to have a dear old chap like Charles Elder right in the middle of things and his business partner Maria and her husband Donald are the couple who doing the sleuthing on this case. The location – a country house in an isolated part of Cornwall – is classically cosy mystery and the method in which the unfortunate victim dies is suitably macabre.

This is an ideal summer holiday read, which plenty of twists and turns and an entertaining variety of possible suspects. I did guess the identity of the murderer before the final big reveal – but only because I read all Agatha Christie’s novels longer ago than I care to think. That said, it didn’t put a huge dent in my enjoyment, because this was more about being bathed in the experience of revisiting an imagined past that I’m sure never existed – although I wished it had. Recommended for fans of well written historical cosy mysteries.
8/10

Review of Satan’s Reach – Book 2 of the Weird Space series by Eric Brown

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I happened to be in the library, browsing the shelves when this offering beckoned. I couldn’t resist, given that I enjoy Brown’s writing – see my review of Engineman, which has some of my favourite scene setting of any sci fi novel, ever…

Telepath Den Harper did the dirty work for the authoritarian Expansion, reading the minds of criminals, spies and undesirables. Unable to take the strain, he stole a starship and headed into the unknown, a sector of lawless space known as Satan’s Reach. For five years he worked as a trader among the stars; then discovered that the Expansion had set a bounty hunter on his trail. But what does the Expansion want with a lowly telepath like Harper? Is there validity in the rumours that human space is being invaded by aliens from another realm? Harper finds out the answer to both these questions when he rescues an orphan girl from certain death.

Den is a likeable chap in a tricky situation, which gets steadily trickier as this fast-paced, enjoyable space opera progresses. This is space opera where the universe is heaving with multitudes of aliens and faster-than-light travels occurs such that zipping between planets takes a matter of weeks. That’s okay – I can happily cope with that. Brown evokes a vivid range of worlds with differing climates, customs and lifestyles in amongst the mayhem, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I also liked the very efficient and adaptable spaceship Den has managed to snag for himself.

Initially, I thought it was all a bit too good to be true, but Brown manages to nicely weave into the storyline the reason why said ship is quite so nifty and needless to say, it all ends in tears… I liked the fact that Den’s gift of telepathy comes at a terrible price – he finds it painful to mindread, particularly alien minds so spends most of his time heavily shielded. He is also rather withdrawn, preferring his own company, which I found entirely plausible.

The story development is excellent – just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, it did so that I read far later into the night when I should have put the book down and got some sleep. Any niggles – I could have done without the romantic element as I thought it out of character for both the protagonists concerned. But as there are two more books in this series, I’m guessing it isn’t all going to run smoothly from hereon in.

Overall, a cracking read from a writer who really knows his craft and if you like your space opera with plenty of excitement and enjoyable worlds, then this one is recommended.
8/10

* NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of EBOOK Morning Star – Book 3 of the Red Rising trilogy by Pierce Brown

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I picked up the first book, Red Rising – see my review here – last month and was blown away by the full-on action, the twists and turns and the climactic ending. Yes… I’m aware that there is a Hunger Games vibe that runs through it, but given that I thoroughly enjoyed The Hunger Games trilogy anyway, and that Brown’s detailed worldbuilding had the savage winnowing embedded within the culture that Darrow is rebelling against, I didn’t have a problem with it. The second book, Golden Son – see my review here – was equally action-packed, with a similarly cataclysmic ending that had me longing to get hold of the third book.

morning starDarrow would have lived in peace, but his enemies brought him war. The Gold overlords demanded his obedience, hanged his wife, and enslaved his people. But Darrow is determined to fight back. Risking everything to transform himself and breach Gold society, Darrow has battled to survive the cutthroat rivalries that breed Society’s mightiest warriors, climbed the ranks, and waited patiently to unleash the revolution that will tear the hierarchy apart from within.

As it happens, I didn’t have to wait too long, as it was released a few days ago – yippee! Would this final book continue to engross me? To be honest, it did have a slightly sticky start. Brown’s forthright pacey style stuttered, and I found the opening pages a bit of a trudge as it seems to backtrack, rather than plunge headlong into the galloping plot. However, I persevered as I had really enjoyed the first two slices of this adventure, and was very curious to see how it would all pan out. About a quarter of the way in, the book picked up pace as Darrow was busy trying to stay alive, lurching from crisis to crisis as the rebellion kicked off around him.

I like his character. Brown manages to provide the classic, driven alpha male who nonetheless is assailed by doubts and painfully aware of the consequences of some of his actions. I also enjoyed the fact that although there are regular outbreaks of bloody violence throughout the trilogy – this is not one for the squeamish – those deaths continue to impact on the action, both personally and politically. I like the fact that it mattered when some of the characters died – and went on mattering throughout the trilogy.

Once Morning Star found its feet, the plot barrelled forward with Brown’s usual explosive energy. There is also a fair amount of humour running through the story and some moving moments as Darrow strives to hold onto the group of people he has befriended during his roller-coaster progress, though those friendships are constantly threatened by the sense of betrayal they feel at his duplicity. I also enjoyed the dilemma Darrow faces as he becomes the poster boy for the rebellion due to a particular piece of film repeatedly shown to inspire the Reds to rise up for justice. How can he move on from his bereavement and invest in another relationship, when he is defined by his heartbreak and grief?

Not that Brown breaks his stride when presenting his character this particular problem – he is too busy creating yet another crushing problem for Darrow to endure. So, did he accomplish a suitably climactic and convincing ending? Yes, he did. It was a fitting conclusion to a really entertaining and enjoyable read – and if you haven’t yet had the pleasure, don’t start with Morning Star, get hold of Red Rising. Pierce Brown is One To Watch.
8/10

Review of Golden Son Book 2 of the Red Rising trilogy by Pierce Brown

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I was very impressed with the first book in this series, Red Rising – see my review here – which charts Darrow’s struggles to establish himself after tragedy strikes and he is left for dead. Would I enjoy this second book that takes the story further?

golden sonDarrow is a rebel forged by tragedy. For years he and his fellow Reds worked the mines, toiling to make the surface of Mars habitable. They were, they believed, mankind’s last hope. Until Darrow discovered that it was all a lie…

That is as much of the rather chatty blurb that I’m willing to share, given that you may be inspired to track down the first book. All I will add is that Brown writes with great intensity and pace, so that Darrow and his followers pack an awful lot into this engrossing dystopian, coming-of-age science fiction thriller. I very much like the way the society is structured – after civilisation crashes on Earth, the survivors aspire to rebuild humanity using the precepts of the ancients. So there is slavery with the Reds right down at the bottom of the heap – both literally and metaphorically, and the Golds are the ruling elite with all the genetic gifts, being waited on hand, foot and finger as all the advantages or wealth and power accrue to them.

There is a catch, however. In order to survive as a Gold, you have to fight among your peers to the death, as there is a savage winnowing to ensure the most dangerous and amoral survive. These ruthless killers are the future leaders of this dystopian society, where everyone is rigidly confined within their colour to serve in the capacity preordained by their birth. Moreover it matters little if they are not suited to that task, because if they aren’t, they simply will not live all that long… And if you’re thinking that this setup will inevitably mean this book will contain a degree of violence – you’re absolutely right. This offering is not for the faint-hearted. Limbs are lopped off and people are cut down in a range of savage fights and battles.

This is foot-to-the-floor, full-on adrenaline fuelled action more or less from the first page, right to the startling denouement at the end… Brown is an accomplished storyteller who navigates the twists and turns within this story with deftness and confidence.

Darrow experiences a roller-coaster ride in his fortunes among the Golds, with the tight-knit team he has acquired from his adventures in Red Rising. However, he is also horribly isolated and that loneliness is increasingly weighing heavily on him as he wonders about the point of his mission. I really enjoyed the way Darrow’s character continues to develop throughout this book – he is all the more human and sympathetic for it. And we also need these interludes, in amongst the killing and the mayhem, to allow the reader to rebond with this main protagonist.

For if we don’t care what happens to him, then the whole structure of the book is immediately undermined, as it is the classic embittered hero striving to bring the structure down on the heads of all those around him, while hoping to rebuild something better from the ashes. Brown doesn’t have him slavishly following this path, however. And it is his questioning and doubts that open up the story to a far more interesting set of questions about what he has turned into and whether unleashing this amount of violence upon a lot of innocents, including servants and children, can ever be justified.

And once more – the ending is a doozy. I certainly didn’t see that coming… This is a cracking addition to the trilogy – no middle book slump here. And if you are looking for a new science fiction adventure with plenty of action and excitement, then track down Red Rising.
9/10

Review of Red Rising – Book 1 of The Red Rising trilogy by Pierce Brown

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I scooped this offering up from the shelves because it was labelled Science Fiction and I liked the cover. As you can see, I’ve all the depth of a pavement puddle when choosing my next read…

redrisingDarrow is a Helldiver, one of a hundred generations of people who live beneath the surface of Mars, spending their lives toiling to mine the precious elements that will allow the planet to be terraformed. Just knowing that once day, people will be able to walk the surface of the planet is enough to justify their sacrifice. The Earth is dying, and Darrow and his people are the only hope humanity has left. Until the day Darrow learns that it is all a lie.

This truncated version of the rather chatty blurb sets up the opening stages of this dystopian science fiction adventure with the strapline: Ender’s Game meets The Hunger Games. Hm. Not sure about that one. While there are definitely elements of The Hunger Games to this adventure, this is grittier.

I love the character of Darrow – his first person narration is punchy and memorable. He has a range of extraordinary talents, yet as he is constantly floundering in amongst a group who know far more about what is going on than he does, he doesn’t come off as too invulnerable. I have strict rules about not verging into spoiler territory, so discussing this particular dystopian fast-paced adventure in any depth immediately poses some challenges. However, I can assure you that one major difference between The Hunger Games and Red Rising is that Darrow isn’t in the middle of a love triangle.

In order for a dystopian science fiction adventure to work, the world has to be convincing; the faultlines within the society have to make sense and the progression into the sorry state the world finds itself also has to be plausible. There also needs to be sufficient complexity to provide plenty of realistic tension to continue giving the protagonist challenges as he struggles to change things in a believable manner. All in all, this is a hefty list – and it is the most common reason why a significant selection of dystopian science fiction offerings go flying across the room, no matter how personable the protagonist.

But Brown manages to tick all the boxes on that score – he has a detailed backstory, with a layered, unequal society and strong, plausible reasons for it to be that way. The description of Darrow’s daily life as a Helldiver in the mines of Mars is extremely well done, providing a vivid insight into what makes him tick, which is really important when he makes some daft decisions later on. But it also meant that I strongly bonded with him – also crucial further on in the book when he takes some dark decisions. All in all, this is a memorable, engrossing read and I’m in the process of tracking down the second book, Golden Son.
9/10

Review of ebook Engineman by Eric Brown

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This Kindle edition of Eric Brown’s interesting offering caught my eye as I enjoyed Brown’s Bengal Station trilogy. The most professionally produced ebook I’ve read so far, I didn’t notice any typos or mistakes and the formatting was flawless. Once I finished the novel, there was an additional collection of short stories, all set in the same world.

Once the Enginemen pushed bigships through the cobalt glory of the nada-continuum. But faster than light isn’t fast enough anymore. The interfaces of the Keilor-Vincicoff Organisation bring planets light years distant a simple step away. Then a man with half a face offers ex-Engineman Ralph Mirren the chance to escape his ruined life and push a ship to an undisclosed destination. The nada-continuum holds the key to Ralph’s future. What he cannot anticipate is its universal importance – nor the mystery awaiting him on the distant colony world.

And there you have it. This isn’t full-on, action-stuffed adventure that whisks you up on page one and doesn’t let you catch your enginemanbreath until the closing sentence. This is an adventure, alright and it steadily gains momentum as the book progresses, but this particular world is an intrinsic part of the story and as such, Brown is at pains to set the scene. Paris is vividly described as a fading city, overrun in parts with alien vegetation as the population continues to move away to more thriving places, both on and off Earth. The previously bustling port and centre of the bigship industry is sliding into inexorable decline – I felt there was a strong comparison to the Port of London after cargo containerisation became the norm. And just as parts of Paris are no longer vital, neither are the Enginemen – those once elite corps of men and women whose brainwaves ‘pushed’ the bigships into the nada-continuum while in a trance-like state called the flux, allowing the ships to travel thousands of light-years in a matter of weeks and months. However, once interfaces were invented so that people could actually walk or drive through to colony planets, the Enginemen were obsolete and unwanted…

The book explores the plight which echoes that of generations of men and women through the ages who have found their skills are suddenly redundant.  Many of these highly skilled people, hungering for the neural high they can only achieve when pushing bigships, take refuge in the religion of the Enginemen – while others cannot manage to grasp at the comfort that this spirituality offers.  This is science fiction at its best – looking at contemporary issues through a futuristic lens…

Brown’s world is so engrossing, the story running through it was almost a distraction and I wasn’t wholly convinced by the ending, which I felt was a bit too unconvincingly upbeat, given the gnarly issues that Brown addresses. However as it got going, it drew me in and I particularly became involved in Ellie’s plotline. I think that Brown’s female protagonists work better than his men – a tendency that is emphasised in the short stories. That said, the characters were all suitably complex and interesting and held my interest throughout.

Any grizzles? Well… it might be a picky point – but as the world is so carefully constructed, it did somewhat jar that as all this alien vegetation engulfed chunks of Paris, at no point did anyone mention any attempts to control or monitor what was growing. Even in a rundown area, I still think there would be – at sporadic intervals – fully overalled, masked teams stomping through, spraying various noxious substances around the place, probably with a glorious disregard for human health, this being a Brown novel. Even if it wasn’t effective, humanity’s hang-ups about the ‘other’ would not tolerate such a laissez-faire attitude to rampant creepers punching through buildings…  In the scheme of things, though, this is a relatively minor point and despite my misgivings about the ending, I think Engineman is an excellent read, raising some pertinent questions about how technology is constantly stranding groups of people who strained to train to acquire a skill – only to find themselves on the scrapheap a few years further down the line.

Which brings me onto the short stories. As they were set in the same world, often addressing the same themes and echoing some of the plotpoints in the novel, I got the impression that a number of them were written alongside the book, helping Brown ‘write his way’ into the storyline. As a result, I found a number of them were so similar in tone and plot to aspects of the novel, I don’t think they offered very much in the way of extra insights into the world. This is particularly applicable to The Girl Who Died for Art and Lived and the award-winning The Time-Elapsed Man. Both were excellent stories, but I do question whether they should have been at the end of this particular book. However, a couple did break away from this tendency and I found Big Trouble Upstairs and The Pineal-Zen Equation really enjoyable reads.

Overall, I thoroughly recommend this ambitious book, which will leave me pondering some of the ideas it raises for a long time to come.

8/10

Sunday Post – 11th April, 2021 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

We are still recovering from a nasty attack of Covid and it’s baby steps. I walked to my local supermarket yesterday – only the second time I’ve been out and about since the beginning of March. A journey there and back, including the shopping normally takes about half an hour, if it isn’t too busy. I took nearly an hour and only bought two items. By the time I staggered back through the kitchen door, I felt as if I’d run a marathon. However, it’s now four days since I needed to take a nap in the middle of the afternoon. Himself is back at work, but still battling with a horrible cough. We are both taking lots of supplements and ensuring that we are eating and drinking healthily.

The photos this week are of plants blooming in the garden. It hasn’t been warm enough to sit out, but one lovely sunny morning I couldn’t resist wandering around taking some pictures. Though the garden is in desperate need of TLC and neither of us feels up to tackling the weeds, so frankly it’s a disgrace.

Last week I read:
The Recollection: Tenth Anniversary Edition by Gareth L. Powell
Four hundred years ago, Ed and Alice Rico threw themselves through a mysterious portal on the London Underground, hunting for Ed’s lost brother—Alice’s husband—Verne.

Now, starship captain Katherine Abdulov embarks on a desperate race against ruthless rival captain—and her former lover—Victor Luciano, to try and earn back her family’s trust.

Tomorrow, all their lives will be thrown together by disaster, as an ancient evil stirs among the stars, threatening the survival of all life…
I took a while to get invested in this dual narrative adventure, as initially I didn’t bond with any of the protagonists. But once things started to kick off, I was able to settle into this enjoyable space opera adventure and let the pages turn themselves. Review to follow.

The Russian Cage – Book 3 of the Gunnie Rose series by Charlaine Harris
Picking up right where A Longer Fall left off, this thrilling third installment follows Lizbeth Rose as she takes on one of her most dangerous missions yet: rescuing her estranged partner, Prince Eli, from the Holy Russian Empire.

Once in San Diego, Lizbeth is going to have to rely upon her sister Felicia, and her growing Grigori powers to navigate her way through this strange new world of royalty and deception in order to get Eli freed from jail where he’s being held for murder.
I’ve read and enjoyed the previous two books in this entertaining alternate history series and appreciated learning more about the Holy Russian Empire and exactly how it became established. There is plenty of action and more of Lizbeth, which is always a bonus…

Railhead – Book 1 of the Railhead series by Philip Reeve
Zen Starling is a petty thief, a street urchin from Thunder City. So when mysterious stranger Raven sends Zen and his new friend Nova on a mission to infiltrate the Emperor’s train, he jumps at the chance to traverse the Great Network, to cross the galaxy in a heartbeat, to meet interesting people – and to steal their stuff. But the Great Network is a dangerous place, and Zen has no idea where his journey will take him.

This YA adventure, with its sentient trains that span galaxies, is great fun. Though poor Zen is plonked right in the middle of something far bigger and scarier than he initially realised. Review to follow.

The Eyes of Tamburah – Book 1 of the Archives of the Invisible Swords series by Maria V. Snyder
Shyla is a researcher who resides in the underground desert city of Zirdai, which is ruled by the wealthy Water Prince and brutal Heliacal Priestess. Even though Shyla is sun-kissed – an outcast, considered cursed by the Sun Goddess – she is still renowned for uncovering innumerable archaic facts, lost artefacts, ancient maps and obscure historical documents.

Her quiet life is about to change when Banqui, an archaeologist, enlists her services to find The Eyes of Tamburah: legendary gemstones that bestow great magic on their wielder. These ancient objects can tip the balance of power and give whoever possesses them complete control of the city. But chaos erupts when The Eyes are stolen soon after they’re found – and Shyla is blamed for the theft.
I thoroughly enjoy the bouncy energy in Snyder’s writing – particularly now I’m feeling a tad embattled. So this cracking Sand and Sorcery adventure ticked all the boxes. Review to follow.

By Other Means – Book 5 of the Hayden War Cycle by Evan Currie
The Hayden War has ended and now SOLCOM and the Alliance are face to face in talks, but neither side has the slightest idea what happened in the ultimate battle of the war. Amid political jockeying and diplomatic gamesmanship, Captain Sorilla Aida has been given an assignment : Find a weakness to exploit, buy SOLCOM time to learn just what the hell happened to Valkyrie, and make sure that the Alliance isn’t prepared to risk another conflict in the open.

Sorilla has problems of her own, however, and after losing so much in the war she isn’t as certain of her life choices as she used to be. Unfortunately for her, the Alliance, SOLCOM, and others don’t intend to let her have time to figure it out for herself.
This offering is a thoroughly enjoyable page-turner with plenty of tension and action, despite the lack of full-on space battles that Currie tends to specialise in. Review to follow.

My posts last week:

Castellan the Black and His Wise Draconic Sayings

Review of NETGALLEY arc The Transylvania Twist – Book 2 of the Monster M*A*S*H
series by Angie Fox

Friday Face-off featuring Sourcery – Book 5 of the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Best Thing You Can Steal – a Gideon Sable novel by Simon R. Green

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring The Midnight Bargain by C.L. Polk

Tuesday Treasures – 31

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Outlaws Scarlett & Browne – Book 1 of The Outlaws Scarlett & Browne series by Jonathan Stroud

Sunday Post – 4th April, 2021

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

Keeping up with the Martians https://earthianhivemind.net/2021/04/09/keeping-up-with-the-martians/ It’s great to get one of Steph’s handy roundups about what is happening off our planet just now…

Illuminating Histories: The Oxford Illustrated History of the Book https://interestingliterature.com/2021/04/oxford-illustrated-history-of-the-book-james-raven-review/ After having read Dr Oliver Teale’s review of this sumptuous offering, I now know it’s going to appear on my birthday present list…

Daffodils in Snow, and History Lessons https://ailishsinclair.com/2021/04/daffodils-in-snow-and-history-lessons/ A lovely article – that also ends with the exciting news that Ailish’s second book is now out! So I nicked across and got hold of a copy😊.

A Strange Easter https://thenaptimeauthor.wordpress.com/2021/04/04/a-strange-easter-2/ Another wonderful article by a talented author – this time taking us through Time to other Easters celebrated in challenging circumstances…

Music and the Art Show – Part 1 https://jenniefitzkee.com/2021/04/05/music-and-the-art-show-part-1/ I love how Jennie inspires and fires up the youngsters in her class to be fearlessly creative…

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog. I hope you had a peaceful, healthy week – and do take care. x