Category Archives: adventure

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Doing Time – Book 1 of The Time Police series by Jodi Taylor #Brainfluffbookreview #DoingTimebookreview

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I have been a big fan of Taylor’s writing since Himself stumbled over this immensely talented author when he picked up The Nothing Girl and after that, we discovered the popular Chronicles of St Mary’s – see my review of Just One Damned Thing After Another – though you’ll also find reviews for the next four books in the series if you use the Search box at the top of the right-hand column and enter Jodi Taylor’s name.

BLURB: At some time in the future, the secret of time-travel became available to all. Chaos ensued as people sought to take advantage. Because there will always be nutters who want to change history… And so the Time Police were formed. Internationally sanctioned thugs whose task it was to keep the timeline straight by any and all means possible. And they succeeded. The Time Wars are over. The Time Police won. But who will win the peace? Doing Time follows three hapless new Time Police recruits – Jane, Luke and Matthew – as they try to navigate their first year on the beat. It’s all going to be fine. Obviously.

The book is in multiple viewpoints – Jane, Luke and Matthew all tell parts of their first testing days while training for the Time Police, though I like the fact that we don’t get to know exactly why they joined at the same time.

There is Taylor’s trademark humour, along with moments of real lump-in-the-throat poignancy – I don’t know anyone else who can swing the mood around from tears to laughter and back again with such conviction. What has been reined in a tad in this first book of a new series, is the anarchic mayhem that regularly breaks out in a St Mary’s book as those historians get an idea they want to test. I found it significant that the only time Taylor cuts loose in the same way, is when one of the characters finds himself back at St Mary’s for a short while. I was pleased to see that the more restrained, repressive atmosphere of the time police force has filtered into the writing.

That didn’t stop the tension being tight-wound to the point that I couldn’t put the book down as one character’s life becomes badly impacted by a ruthless antagonist. The sudden resolution to the situation didn’t have me wanting to break off, either. Taylor’s pacing, as ever, is brilliantly handled and I loved the way our initial bonding or otherwise with the main characters goes on altering and developing throughout the book as we learn more about each of them.

Once more, I reached the end of the book with the story having been satisfactorily concluded, but nonetheless feeling a real sense of loss that there wasn’t more. This tends to be my default emotion when getting to the end of one of Taylor’s books – and it’s a struggle to keep from plunging straight into the next one.

Highly recommended for fans of near-future, character-driven stories where time travel features, but isn’t necessarily the engine powering the narrative. The ebook arc copy of Doing Time was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book
9/10

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Review of AUDIOBOOK The Empty Grave – Book 5 of the Lockwood & Co series by Jonathan Stroud #Brainfluffbookreview #TheEmptyGravebookreview

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It took me a while to summon up the courage to listen to this slice of Lockwood & Co’s adventures, because it’s the last book in the series – and I so very much didn’t want the awesomeness to end…

BLURB: Five months after the events in THE CREEPING SHADOW, we join Lockwood, Lucy, George, Holly, and their associate Quill Kipps on a perilous night mission: they have broken into the booby-trapped Fittes Mausoleum, where the body of the legendary psychic heroine Marissa Fittes lies. Or does it? This is just one of the many questions to be answered in Book 5 of the Lockwood & Co. series. Will Lockwood ever reveal more about his family’s past to Lucy? Will their trip to the Other Side leave Lucy and Lockwood forever changed? Will Penelope Fittes succeed in shutting down their agency forever? The young agents must survive attacks from foes both spectral and human before they can take on their greatest enemy in a climactic and chaotic battle.

As is apparent from the blurb, this isn’t a series you can easily crash into. As each of the stories, while standalone for each of the mysteries they pose, adds another piece of the puzzle that Lockwood and his young associates are struggling to solve – what caused the Problem in the first place, some fifty years ago. Why did ghosts suddenly take to infesting the world of the living, causing fear, havoc and so many countless deaths?

By now, I am thoroughly at home with Lucy, the main protagonist whose dry humour leavens the creepier moments, and her companions – the dashing young Anthony Lockwood, clever, spiky George, precise and poised Holly and acerbic Kipps – not to mention Flo Bones and the Skull, who Lucy carries about in a rucksack in a jar. While this apparently a children’s book, there are plenty of moments that are genuinely creepy – sufficiently so that when my grandson was listening, he decided that he’d rather hear them during the day rather than when he was trying to get to sleep. In my opinion, this series is definitely more suited to the eleven to fifteen age-group, though this rather picky granny absolutely loved it.

There is a layering in the characterisation, a real sense of poignancy when dealing with Lockwood’s loss of his family and a depth of scene setting and worldbuilding that is a solid delight throughout. While I loved the Bartimaeus series, I’ve enjoyed Lockwood & Co even more, given those footnotes got a bit annoying halfway through.

As it is the final book in the series, there isn’t much to say that won’t immediately lurch into Spoiler territory – but don’t start at The Empty Grave, please do begin with the first book, The Screaming Staircase. Right now, I wish I had a timeturner so I could give it a twist and begin allll over again. I’m feeling drained and a tad emotional… the way you do when a world has sunk its hooks right into your heart and you know that even if you reread the story, you can’t ever experience it in quite the same way again. Highly recommended for everyone and an outstanding ending to an outstanding series.
10/10

Teaser Tuesday – 15th October, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #TeaserTuesday

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Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:

Empire Games – Book 1 of the Empire Games series by Charles Stross
p. 123 Two months after her abortive kidnapping, Rita was allowed a weekend trip home to visit her family. In fact, she was urged to do so. “E-mail and Facebook aren’t enough,” explained her supervisor, an affable African American named Patrick O-Neill who’d worked surveillance operations when he was in the FBI. “If you vanish off the face of the earth for weeks, then send them vaguely reassuring messages, your parents will worry that you’ve been abducted; it’s entirely natural. But you’ve been through basic orientation and briefing now, and it’ll make life a lot easier for us – and for them – if you go home and explain what’s happened.”

“Easier for you?” Rita asked dubiously.

BLURB: The year is 2020. It’s seventeen years since the Revolution overthrew the last king of the New British Empire, and the newly-reconstituted North American Commonwealth is developing rapidly, on course to defeat the French and bring democracy to a troubled world. Two nuclear superpowers are set on a collision course. Two increasingly desperate paratime espionage agencies are fumbling around in the dark, trying to find a solution to the first contact problem that doesn’t result in a nuclear holocaust. And two women—a mother and her long-lost, adopted daughter—are about to find themselves on opposite sides of the confrontation.
I’ve performed major surgery on the blurb, which reads more like a mini-synopsis and the names won’t mean anything to you, anyway.

This is the first book in a spinoff series from Stross’s rightly successful Merchant Princes portal fantasy thriller, which deals with a measure of rigour and intelligence to the premise – what if there were parallel worlds that a few people could access? I had an unfortunate attempt to read this book back in 2017 – see here. But now I have managed to get hold of it in my local library and am enjoying it.

Authoring Annals 4 – Tweaking the Outline – Mantivore Warrior – Book 3 of The Arcadian Chronicles #AuthoringAnnals #Brainfluffwritingblog #MantivoreWarrior #AmWriting

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I’m on the final lap of editing Mantivore Prey, the second book in The Arcadian Chronicles, which will be released on 30th November, barring any major catastrophes. This is the cover for Mantivore Prey, which as ever was designed by the marvellous Mhairi Simpson and I’m really pleased with it.

I made a strong start on Mantivore Warrior while in Bexhill on a wonderful writing retreat with my sister-in-law last month, but once I hit Chapter Three, it all slowed down a bit. Chapter Three provides the first major plotpoint which changes everything up. I’ve flung everything, including the kitchen sink into this pivotal scene, which is ambitious as there hasn’t been all that much time for readers to bond or care about the characters. Initially, I had one of the antagonists killing a relation in the outline, which worked well enough. But when I actually came to write the scene, it turned into something a lot more visceral and violent – and I began to feel uncomfortable about writing the death. Granted, we hadn’t known the character all that well beforehand, so there wasn’t going to be a major shock to the reader. But it seemed a rather bleak beginning to have a character that the protagonist really cares about felled at a time when he’s hoping to turn everything around. What had seemed reasonable in the outline, suddenly was far more of a big deal, given the emotional heft I’d added in the writing of it.

I’ve tweaked events, so said elderly relative is now in a coma and fighting for her life. I’m leaning towards sparing her life, as things stand. But I do reserve the right to have her die after all, if I think it will better serve the story. I’ve rewritten the outline so that both outcomes can serve the story, though it will affect the overall tone if young Jessob is mourning the loss of this character and vowing vengeance. It was what I’d originally intended.

But once I finished Chapter Three, that plotline felt less effective than the alternative, where he’s fighting to help her recover. So I’m looking forward to getting further along so that I can discover which plotline will be the one that prevails…

Friday Faceoff – This life at best is but an inn, and we the passengers… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoffinncovers

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and the subject this week featuring on any of our covers is INNS. I’ve selected the wonderful classic, Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier as I loved this rightly famous classic and have actually visited the site where this adventure is set, where there is now a museum devoted to the dark story of Cornish smuggling…

 

This edition was produced by Virago Press in Mary 2003 and is a strong contender. I love the drama of that red lettering against the scrollwork and in a long, long list of thumbnail covers – this one really pops. I’m aware there isn’t an inn on this edition, but I think the styling gives a sense that it is a historical adventure. I also like the lack of clutter on the cover.

 

This edition, published in 1983 by Pan Books, made the cut because that the image of the inn lurking in the background is uncannily like the museum housing the Jamaica Inn collection. A pity about the doe-eyed female wafting about in the foreground, though.

 

Published in paperback by Arrow in 1992, this edition is also a very near miss. The Cornish landscape is so well depicted here, with the ferns and heather crouching in the foreground and Mary staring at the unprepossessing building sprawling in front of her, that I had thought it would be my favourite. Another major plus for me – the strong fonts, lack of text boxes or chatter across that lovely image to spoil the overall effect.

 

This hardback edition, published by Sun Dial Press in 1937, knocks all the others out of the court. I apologise for the size of it – I generally don’t feature covers that I cannot get to full size. But this cover is good enough to break my rule. What a great effect that gateway provides, with the swinging sign giving the name of the book and author. The puddled, potholed track gives a sense of the dilapidated state of the place, while the girl whose skirts are swirling in the wind blasting across the moor, adds to the sense that all in not well. The aura of brooding menace leaps off the cover and makes this my favourite.

 

This Spanish edition, published in March 2018 by Alba, also gives a sense of the gothic suspense lurking in the building. I like the monochrome effect of the building against the black sky, though I do question the choice of the author text also being in black as in thumbnail mode, it simply disappears. Which is your favourite?

Teaser Tuesday – 8th October, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #TeaserTuesday

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Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:

Starship Alchemon by Christopher Hinz
79% “Captain, I am registering a series of Level One power spikes,” Jonomy said. “They are emanating from the dreamlounge. One of the pods has been activated. I do not believe it is a false reading caused by the invader. Since Hardy is the only crewmember unaccounted for, it must be him.”

It wasn’t exactly the best time to go dreamlounging. “Do an interrupt, tell Hardy he has to get to the bridge.”

BLURB: Far from Earth, the AI-guided vessel Alchemon discovers a bizarre creature whose malignant powers are amplified by the presence of LeaMarsa de Host, a gifted but troubled Psionic.The ship is soon caught in a maelstrom of psychic turbulence that drives one crewmember insane and frees the creature from its secure containment. Now Captain Ericho Solorzano and the survivors must fight for their lives against a shrewd enemy that not only can attack them physically, emotionally and intellectually, but which seeks control of their sentient ship as a prelude to a murderous assault on the human species.

I haven’t read anything by this author before, and I liked the premise. I’m waiting for something a bit different to occur – and so far it hasn’t. But this, being an Angry Robot publication, I’m sure it will…

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Akin by Emma Donoghue #Brainfluffbookreview #Akinbookreview

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I loved Room – and when I saw this one available at Netgalley, I immediately requested it, delighted to be approved to read it…

BLURB: Noah Selvaggio is a retired chemistry professor and widower living on the Upper West Side, but born in the South of France. He is days away from his first visit back to Nice since he was a child, bringing with him a handful of puzzling photos he’s discovered from his mother’s wartime years. But he receives a call from social services: Noah is the closest available relative of an eleven-year-old great-nephew he’s never met, who urgently needs someone to look after him. Out of a feeling of obligation, Noah agrees to take Michael along on his trip…

I immediately found myself bonding with dear old Noah, who still regularly spoke to his dead wife and heard her answers in his head, as he is confronted with this spiky eleven-year-old reeling from the loss of the grandmother who was looking after him, while his mother is in jail. I understood and sympathised with Noah’s reluctance to get involved – he’d broken his heart over the boy’s father, the beautiful nephew Victor, who had taken gifts from his doting aunt and uncle and sold them for drugs. Why would he want to get tangled up in this mess? And the answer comes back that at seventy-nine years old, he is the only relative willing to take the boy on and keep him out of the state childcare system – and all that entails.

So he does… There isn’t so much a generation gap as a yawning chasm between the two of them. Add in the mix of whisking the boy off to Nice, on a long-planned holiday to explore the city of Noah’s birth and further investigate the life of his mother and famous photographer grandfather – and the result is a chaotic negotiation of rules in amongst unfamiliar surroundings and a different time-zone. Noah constantly is brought up short at Michael’s laconic, sharp-edged responses to places he has been raised to revere.

What I loved about Noah, is that it would have been all too easy for him to have become aggravated and hostile to Michael’s constant button-pressing and pushing for boundaries. But he tries to take into account the boy’s trauma as he copes with his foul-mouthed responses and wall of insolence as the child retreats into games and screens. Every so often he snaps and there are fireworks, which I felt were very convincing. But Donoghue manages to portray the shifting dynamic within their relationship as Noah tries to accommodate Michael’s needs, while the boy gets used to having to cope with yet another adult in his life, who is only a temporary haven anyway.

Unspooling in the middle of this relationship, are Noah’s discoveries about his mother. I’ll be honest, there seemed to be an awful lot of joining the dots with some very flimsy evidence regarding this small handful of photographs his mother had taken in Nice during the war years. But I’ll give her a pass on this one, as I think Donoghue did manage to make it work – just about. All in all, this was a delightful, poignant read, interlaced with some very funny moments. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading family dramas in quirky settings. The ebook arc copy of Akin was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
10/10

Friday Faceoff – Once Upon a Horrible Time… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceofffrighteningfairytalecovers

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and the subject this week featuring on any of our covers is 60s HORROR. I generally don’t read horror – I certainly didn’t read it in the 1960s when I was a child. Except… someone gifted me with a beautifully illustrated copy of Grimms Fairy Tales. WHAT WERE THEY THINKING??? They terrified me. Some of the characters regularly featured in my more lurid nightmares. So this is my offering for this week’s theme. Have you read this collection?

 

This hardback edition, produced by Nelson Doubleday Inc in 1963 wasn’t the edition that I recall, but it was quite similar. And yes – I still think it’s very creepy and not really appropriate reading material for a precocious, rather over-imaginative little girl prone to nightmares. That cover hints at the horrors lurking within the stories for all it’s colourful, apparently child-friendly boldness and clear font. I hate it…

 

Published in March 2019, this Kindle edition isn’t pretending to be appropriate for children, thank goodness. That Rapunzel is clearly looking distressed and that wood is creepy, while the font isn’t in the jolly primary colours designed to lure unsuspecting kiddies. This is much better!

 

This edition, released in May 2014 by Red Skull Publishing is also clearly designed for adults who prefer their fiction on the darker side. That image on the cover isn’t remotely child-friendly and while the stories are staples of the nursery, these versions are all far more savage, as the cover makes clear.

 

The Kindle, released in May 2016, has gone for a very pared-back effect. I really like it. The classic red on black/dark brown gives a sense of menace and that ribbon of red becoming increasingly clawed as it snakes down the cover is simple, yet very effective. And for once, I am not going to moan about the plain font, which works well with the overall design. This is my favourite – not going to remotely appeal to any misguided adult looking for an engrossing read for their child, or said child with pocket money burning a hold in her hot little hand.

 

This paperback edition, released in February 2019, has used this cover for a variety of editions, including one said to be suitable for children. Looking at that wicked old crone and those lost children, I have my doubts… Frankly, it’s the Blair Witch Project of its time, as far as I’m concerned. Which is your favourite? Is there a book that you were given as a child that terrified you?

Kickass Divas in Sci Fi Book Funnel Promotion #Brainfluffbookblog

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If you are hunting for some gripping sci fi featuring strong heroines in tricky situations, ready for November’s Sci Fi Month I’m taking part in the Kickass Divas in Sci Fi promotion running until 22nd October on Book Funnel. I’ve featured below a handful of books which have caught my eye. Click on the link to check them out in more detail…

Starfall – a Durga System novella by Jessie Kwak
“Have you been treated well here?”
Starla’s hands come up short — she was going to sign something rude, but she’s cuffed to the table. If these Alliance clowns want answers, they’re going to have to uncuff her to let her talk.
Because they seem to want to ask her plenty: What was her childhood like on Silk Station? Does she understand her parents are wanted? What does she know about OIC terrorists?
But Starla’s not saying a thing until she gets an answer to her own question:
What happened to my parents?
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Starla Dusai is fifteen, deaf — and being held as an enemy combatant by the Indiran Alliance. Willem Jaantzen is a notorious crime lord about to end a fearsome vendetta — and most probably his life.
When he learns his goddaughter has been captured by the Alliance, he understands he’s her only hope. But saving a girl he barely knows means letting his wife’s murderer walk free. Will Jaantzen be able to put aside his anger before Starla’s time runs out?

 

The Warbirds of Absaroka – NOVELLA – File One of the Universal Star League series
by Debbie Mumford

Brenna Standing Bear has been given an impossible task by her dying grandfather: convince Absaroka’s Planetary Council to build a fleet to defend against the Bug-Eyes. The problem? The council believes the Bug-Eyes were defeated sixty-eight years ago. Why should they expend precious resources to defend against a non-existent threat?

 

The Enclave – Book 1 of The Verge series by H.M. Clarke
Federation officer Katherine Kirk, a survivor of the Alliance holding facility at Yunga, is now on the brink of capturing its infamous commander. But that joy gets ripped away from Kirk when her ship is abruptly pulled from the line and sent to ferry a Federation Ambassador to Junter 3. Once there, Kirk finds herself quickly embroiled in the bitter politics between the New Holland Government and the Val Myrain Refugees claiming asylum.

After an attack on the New Holland Government Center, Kirk and her team hunt the enemy across the planet and discover an Alliance facility hidden deep beneath one of the Val Myrain enclaves. And contains a secret too horrifying to believe possible.

 

Distant Horizon – Book One of the Distant Horizon series by Stephanie and Isaac Flint
The Community is safe…
Unless you have superpowers.

The Community is secure…
Until the rebels come to get you.

The Community is efficient…
At hiding deadly secrets.

Uncover the truth in this thrilling dystopian adventure!

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 2nd October, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #CWW

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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 – Doing Time – Book 1 of The Time Police by Jodi Taylor

#Time travel #near future #spinoff series from the Chronicles of St Mary’s series

BLURB: At some time in the future, the secret of time-travel became available to all. Chaos ensued as people sought to take advantage. Because there will always be nutters who want to change history…

And so the Time Police were formed. Internationally sanctioned thugs whose task it was to keep the timeline straight by any and all means possible. And they succeeded. The Time Wars are over. The Time Police won. But who will win the peace?

As soon as I saw the cover and the blurb, it was a no-brainer that I’d request this one. I love the madcap adventures of the other nutters – the history buffs who inhabit St Mary’s – as they visit a variety of momentous occasions throughout history for the purposes of research, see my review of Just One Damned Thing After Another. And I won’t have long to wait. This offering is being released on 17th October – yippee!