Category Archives: alien encounter

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Children of Memory – Book 3 of the Children of Time series by Adrian Tchaikovsky #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #ChildrenofMemorybookreview

Standard

I was blown away by Children of Time see my review, which I think is one of the best terraforming adventures I’ve ever read. So I was especially keen to read Children of Ruin, which I didn’t think was so successful, though that was partly because it was extremely ambitious – see my review. It goes without saying that Children of Memory is one of my must-reads of the year – for starters, I was intrigued to see where Tchaikovsky was going with this story and how many of his highly unusual cast in this series would appear.

BLURB: Earth is failing. In a desperate bid to escape, the spaceship Enkidu and its captain, Heorest Holt, carry its precious human cargo to a potential new Eden. Generations later, this fragile colony has managed to survive, eking out a hardy existence. Yet life is tough, and much technological knowledge has been lost.

Then Liff, Holt’s granddaughter, hears whispers that the strangers in town aren’t from neighbouring farmland. That they possess unparalleled technology – and that they’ve arrived from another world. But not all questions are so easily answered, and their price may be the colony itself.

REVIEW: I loved the early section of the book which quickly drew me in. Liff is a delightful and sympathetic character, who is just at the age when questioning the status quo is what she should be doing. Unfortunately, this isn’t a society where any form of dissent is welcomed, particularly where her uncle is concerned. Sometimes, this merely causes a bit of family tension, other times her questions are met with blows and punishment. Time is highly mutable in this tale and we revisit key events with very different outcomes.

I enjoyed once more meeting Kern, Portia, Paul and Miranda in their current iterations as they grapple with the puzzle that lies at the heart of the colony. But about of the third of the way through, the pace stuttered. Obviously in a book dealing with time loops, there is a degree of repetition. But I did feel that there were just too many dialogues between the ravens that essentially ended up with them being stumped. And while their back and forth was initially amusing, by the final section I frankly hoped that someone in the colony would shoot the wretched birds and save me from yet another conversation between them.

Fortunately, Liff’s predicament and Miranda’s quirky character kept me turning the pages, along with the examination of memory, guilt and the role of outsiders within a closed society, all of which were nested within the story. The pace once more picked up again in the final section as Tchaikovsky drew all the elements together. I thoroughly enjoyed the ending, which left me moved. I don’t recommend you tuck into this one if you haven’t read at least one of the previous books in the series. Besides, Children of Time is definitely a treat if you haven’t yet had the pleasure. And while in my opinion, neither of the subsequent books in the series quite reach the same heights, both are interesting and thought-provoking reads. While I obtained an arc of Children of Memory from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

Review of NETGALLEY arc The Immortality Thief by Taran Hunt – Book 1 of The Kystrom Chronicles #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #TheImmortalityThiefbookreview

Standard

I’m always a sucker for a cracking good space opera thriller – and the cover and the blurb had me looking forward to this offering. Would it deliver?

BLURB: Refugee, criminal and linguist Sean Wren is made an offer he knows he can’t refuse: life in prison, “voluntary” military service – or salvaging data in a long-dead language from an abandoned ship filled with traps and monsters, just days before it’s destroyed in a supernova. Data connected to the Philosopher’s Stone experiments, into unlocking the secrets of immortality.

And he’s not the only one looking for the derelict ship. The Ministers, mysterious undying aliens that have ruled over humanity for centuries, want the data – as does The Republic, humanity’s last free government. And time is running out. In the bowels of the derelict ship, surrounded by horrors and dead men, Sean slowly uncovers the truth of what happened on the ship, in its final days… and the terrible secret it’s hiding.

REVIEW: I’ll be honest – when I finally got around to reading this one, I wasn’t really in the mood for a creepy deserted space ship, which I’ll own is my problem rather than anything wrong with the writing. So it’s a testament to the author’s skill that by the time I was a quarter of the way into this one, I was thoroughly hooked.

The reason why I found myself so wrapped up in this adventure is that I became thoroughly invested in Sean. The main protagonist is masterfully handled by Hunt. In the early stages of the book, I found him hard work. His ‘cheeky chappie’ façade started to wear thin very quickly – and by their reactions, I realised the other crew of Viper felt much the same way. But as the book wore on, I began to appreciate that Sean’s wisecracking, irreverent attitude hides a deep belief in the sanctity of life. And a strong sense that the dumb stroke of luck that allowed him to survive the massacre of his family, friends and neighbours has left him with a need to pass it on whenever he finds someone wanting help. Hunt does a really good job in conveying this belief without portraying Sean as some futuristic Pollyanna.

I also got thoroughly caught up in learning more about the two other characters Sean finds himself sharing his terrifying adventures with – initially, they both seem utterly horrible and extremely dangerous. In fact, they remain extremely dangerous throughout, which provides some interesting plot twists along the way. I’m aware that I’ve only really discussed the characters – but this is principally an action adventure novel, brimful of action set on a derelict space ship on the brink of catastrophic disaster. And it provides plenty of tension and nasty surprises along the way, which makes for an engrossing page-turner I found hard to put down.

A completely unexpected twist right at the end has me keen to read the next book in this series and it comes very highly recommended for fans of tension-filled space opera adventure with memorable, excellently portrayed characters. While I obtained an audiobook arc of The Immortality Thief from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
10/10

SUNDAY POST – 25th September, 2022 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

Standard

This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books they’ve read and share what they have got up to during the last week.

A great deal seems to have happened since I last took part in the Sunday Post. The boys have both started back at school and college respectively. And both have gone down with a nasty viral illness, which saw Oscar unable to resume school last week after the late Queen’s funeral. It definitely wasn’t covid, but was nevertheless very unpleasant. My sister, who works in a pharmacy, says it’s one of the latest infections zapping our rather flappy immune systems. In addition, Ethan needed a course of antibiotics for a nasty cough which he picked up during the summer and hadn’t managed to shift. I hate it when the children aren’t well, so I also found it quite stressful. Thankfully both are recovering – though Ethan still hasn’t shifted the cough as much as I would like.

And of course we had the death of Queen Elizabeth II, which was a terrible shock. If I had been physically stronger, I’d have travelled to London and joined the queues to attend the lying-in state, as Himself and I had attended the Queen Mother’s and it was a wonderful, uplifting experience. My sister joined me on Monday and we watched the funeral together, both weeping at times for the end of an era and the loss of a wonderful leader full of goodness and integrity, who had prevented me from getting too jaded and cynical about those In Charge. It will seem very strange when new stamps, coins and currency start to appear without Queen Elizabeth’s head on them.

Other than that, I keep taking each day as it comes and while I’m often very tired by the end of the day as I’m still horribly unfit – it isn’t the bone-aching, mind-sapping exhaustion that was a feature of the Long Covid I’d endured. If I get to the end of the month without suffering any kind of relapse, I will be applying to our local leisure centre for the offered 12 free sessions for those who have suffered from Long Covid. So fingers crossed!

Last week I read:-

Sol 2781 – Book 4 of the Drago Tell Dramis series by Janet Edwards
Major Drago Tell Dramis is celebrating the fact that the saboteur has been caught, and the Earth solar arrays will be safe now. The arrest of a member of the main board of Hospital Earth has consequences though. As Drago hits orbital levels of fury, and declares his own personal war against Hospital Earth, he’s hit by even more unexpected problems.

There’s a joke that says one birth member of the Tell clan attracts trouble, two birth members of the Tell clan invite minor disasters, while three is the critical mass that triggers cataclysmic events. As the danger mounts, the question is whether Drago and his two cousins, Jaxon and Gemelle, can prove an alternative theory. Are three members of the Tell clan really the critical mass that resolves cataclysmic events?
I always enjoy Janet Edwards writing – and this one is no exception. She has the knack of writing eventful, vivid and well-depicted space opera adventures with an upbeat vibe, even when her protagonists are going through a really tough time. Review to follow.

AUDIOBOOK – False Value – Book 8 of the Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch
Peter Grant is facing fatherhood, and an uncertain future, with equal amounts of panic and enthusiasm. Rather than sit around, he takes a job with émigré Silicon Valley tech genius Terrence Skinner’s brand new London start up – the Serious Cybernetics Company.
Drawn into the orbit of Old Street’s famous ‘silicon roundabout’, Peter must learn how to blend in with people who are both civilians and geekier than he is. Compared to his last job, Peter thinks it should be a doddle. But magic is not finished with Mama Grant’s favourite son.

Because Terrence Skinner has a secret hidden in the bowels of the SCC. A technology that stretches back to Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage, and forward to the future of artificial intelligence. A secret that is just as magical as it technological – and just as dangerous.
This book takes us into different territory, as Peter has struck out into pastures new and is now working as Security in a high-profile tech firm. I loved his wry depiction of modern working practices, along with yet another well-plotted adventure mystery. I also enjoyed the tenderness portrayed in the relationship between heavily pregnant Beverley and Peter. 9/10

Making It Write – Book 3 of A Writer For Hire Mystery Series by Betty Hechtman
As a writer for hire, Veronica Blackstone puts her keyboard to use to help others. That includes writing advertising copy for local businesses or love letters for those with romantic troubles, or helping people publish their memoirs. Maeve Winslow needs the latter.

Maeve is the wife of a famous artist nominated for a prestigious award, and the memoir is to be released ahead of the ceremony. All of Maeve’s notes are given to Veronica but for the final few pages. There’s a huge surprise within those last pages, but Maeve won’t reveal it yet.

When Maeve is found dead at the foot of her stairs it looks like an accident, but Veronica isn’t convinced. Was the scene staged? Was Maeve murdered to keep her silent? Could clues to the surprise, and the identity of the murderer, be hidden within the notes? It’s up to Veronica to figure it out and write the real story.
This was the first time I’d had the pleasure of reading a book in this cosy murder mystery series – but I certainly hope it won’t be the last. I grew to really like Veronica and enjoyed the growing sense of wrongness about Maeve’s death. 8/10

AUDIOBOOK – Deceiver – Book 11 (Sequence 4, Book 2) of the Foreigner series by C.J. Cherryh
The civil war among the alien Atevi has ended. Tabini-aiji, powerful ruler of the Western Association, along with Cajeiri, his son and heir, has returned to the Bujavid, his seat of power. But factions that remain loyal to the opposition are still present, and the danger these rebels pose is far from over.

I am loving listening to this highly detailed and tension-filled adventure set on an alien planet, where humanity is in the minority and Bren Cameron, as the sole human representative living among the Atevi, gets sucked into their turbulent politics. 9/10

The Firstborn by Quenby Olson
Sophia has sacrificed everything for her younger sister, Lucy. She has removed them from the only home they ever knew, taken on the care of Lucy’s illegitimate son, George, and even assumed the role of a widow and mother in order to erase all hint of scandal from the boy’s birth. But rumor continues to follow them like the darkest of clouds, and Sophia must adapt to her new existence as a false widow with no prospects beyond the doors of her small cottage.

Lord Finnian Haughton will stop at nothing to prevent the slightest hint of scandal from tainting his family’s name. When he learns of his younger brother’s latest indiscretion-one that leaves a bastard child in his wake-Haughton rushes across the country to offer the boy’s mother a comfortable living in exchange for her silence about the child’s true parentage. But he arrives only to have his generous offer thrown back in his face by Sophia Brixton, a sharp-tongued and sharper-witted woman who proceeds to toss him out of her house. But just because he is banished from her home does not mean he is so easily banished from her life.
I have thoroughly enjoyed Olson’s historical fantasy stories. Indeed, her gripping book about a woman with a talent she’d rather not have, The Half Killed, is one of my standout of reads of the year so far. This enjoyable Regency romance may not have the heft and physicality of that offering, but nevertheless is highly enjoyable. 8/10

AUDIOBOOK – Death Among the Diamonds – Book 1 of the Cressida Fawcett Mystery series by Fliss Chester
Everyone in 1920s London knows the Honourable Cressida Fawcett: fiercely independent (though never apart from her little pug Ruby), lover of martinis and interior designer extraordinaire. She’s solved many crimes of fashion… so how about murder?

Cressida Fawcett is heading to the English countryside for a weekend of cocktails and partying at her friend’s glamorous mansion, the location of a recent diamond heist. But just hours after her arrival, Cressida is woken by an almighty scream. Rushing to the landing, she looks down into the great hall to find a trembling maid standing next to the body of Harry, the friendly young chandelier cleaner.

Everyone believes Harry’s death was an accident. But as Cressida examines the opulent hall and the beautiful grounds, she thinks something darker is afoot. Why clean a chandelier in the early hours of the morning? And who overheard Harry boasting about coming into unexpected wealth? A small piece of torn silk found near the body has Cressida looking at the guests’ elegant clothes with fresh eyes…
I was delighted to get hold of a Netgalley audiobook arc for this entertaining whodunit and was thoroughly looking forward to tucking into this offering. Initially I was a tad disappointed, as I had realised exactly where the diamonds had been hidden – until it turned out they hadn’t… Cressida is suitably headstrong and plucky, while ably assisted by her endearing little dog, Ruby. A thoroughly enjoyable listen! Review to follow.

My posts last week:

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY AUDIOBOOK The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna

Can’t-Wait-Wednesday featuring The Immortality Thief – Book 1 of The Kystrom Chronicles by Taran Hunt

Review of NETGALLEY arc Making It Write – Book 3 of A Writer For Hire Mystery series by Betty Hechtman

Wishing you all a happy, health week😊.

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 21st September, 2022 #Brainfluffbookblog #CWC #WOW

Standard

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 Immortality Thief – Book 1 of The Kystrom Chronicles by Taran Hunt – release date – 11th October, 2022

#science fiction #space opera #thriller

BLURB: Refugee, criminal and linguist Sean Wren is made an offer he knows he can’t refuse: life in prison, “voluntary” military service – or salvaging data in a long-dead language from an abandoned ship filled with traps and monsters, just days before it’s destroyed in a supernova. Data connected to the Philosopher’s Stone experiments, into unlocking the secrets of immortality.

And he’s not the only one looking for the derelict ship. The Ministers, mysterious undying aliens that have ruled over humanity for centuries, want the data – as does The Republic, humanity’s last free government. And time is running out.

In the bowels of the derelict ship, surrounded by horrors and dead men, Sean slowly uncovers the truth of what happened on the ship, in its final days… and the terrible secret it’s hiding.

It was the title that caught my eye – and then the premise. While I find it difficult to cope with creepy stuff here on Earth – once it’s safely out in space, I find it thoroughly enjoyable. Particularly as the extremely hostile conditions of deep space always make it much harder to simply run awaaay – which is often what I’m urging protagonists who insist on visiting deserted houses with dubious histories… isolated wilderness spots with dodgy characters… or simply getting out of bed to confront the strange noises in the night – who does that??? Anyway, back to this offering – it sounds like there are all sorts of nasties lingering in the shadows and I’m looking forward to tucking into it😊.

SUNDAY POST – LIVING WITH LONG COVID #20

Standard

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…

SUNDAY POST – LIVING WITH LONG COVID #18

Standard

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.

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

Standard

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

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Veiled Masters: a Twilight Imperium novel by Tim Pratt #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #TheVeiledMastersbookreview

Standard

I enjoy Pratt’s writing – his delightful duology made up of Doors of Sleep and Prison of Sleep provides an original spin on the portal adventure premise that has me hoping for more in this intriguing world. And as I’ve also read another Twilight Imperium adventure – The Necropolis Empire – I was more than happy to revisit this entertaining world.

BLURB: The balance of power is shifting, with bold new alliances, unknown invaders, and the rumored return of the galaxy’s ancient masters. When black-ops spy Amina Azad saves a Hacan ambassador from assassination, she draws him into her investigation of a vast conspiracy: unseen forces are destabilizing the whole galaxy, at the worst possible time. Pursued by agents from dozens of other factions, they can only make progress by allying with their apparent enemies. But even they might be compromised – duped into action by a secret puppet-master. How can they trust an alliance when they can’t trust themselves?

REVIEW: The first thing to get out of the way is the Twilight Imperium aspect. Apparently, this entertaining series of space opera adventure books is a spin-off from a popular board game, Twilight Imperium. I mention this in case some fans of the game are prompted to pick up the books. However, if you are a reader who generally avoids reading books connected to TV series, films and games (like me!) you can ignore this nugget of information. If I hadn’t told you the origin of the novel, there’s nothing in the storytelling, characterisation or worldbuilding that would give it away.

One of the aspects that I really like is that although this book is set within the same world as The Necropolis Empire, it is essentially a standalone, even though there are characters from previous adventures that pop up, giving us further insights into their motivations and vulnerabilities. This time, the conspiracy our plucky black-ops heroine is scrambling to head off is truly horrific. Space opera is difficult to write well, as the storyline is often pan-galactic in scope and requires frequent changes of scene and character in order to fully explore all aspects and consequences of the narrative arc. Pratt’s upbeat, energetic style skilfully avoids all the pitfalls, instead giving us intriguing, layered characters, despite the necessary scene changes; and a clear plotline that emerges from the twisty conspiring which held me from the beginning.

I very much like that fact that Pratt’s characters are morally ambiguous. Our protagonists are often self-serving and a bit dodgy. While the ultimate antagonists are not necessarily evil monsters – even though the fate they have in mind is a terrible one for millions of unsuspecting sentient beings. One of the big attractions of Pratt’s writing is that while he is often dealing with dark deeds, the tone of his books tends not to get overly grim, as there are some nice touches of humour throughout to leaven the enormity of the threat. I understand that this is the last of his Twilight Imperium novels – which I very much regret. As ever, tucking into this adventure was a blast and I look forward to reading more from this skilful, entertaining author. 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

SUNDAY POST – LIVING WITH LONG COVID #17

Standard

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

My grandmother had a saying, “What goes up must come down.” And yes… it absolutely applies to my current situation. After celebrating my triumphant return to something approaching my life before I got sick with Covid – I then had another relapse that lasted nearly a fortnight, where I spent most of the day in bed again, feeling utterly exhausted. And this time around it was a lot harder to endure after having once more felt like the person I used to be.

The good news is that I know exactly what triggered this setback – my hospital appointment at the Breast Care Clinic, where I had a thorough exam by a consultant, a mammogram and ultrasound scan – just to ensure that some of my Long Covid symptoms weren’t masking something far more sinister and life-shortening. I was so impressed at the efficient and kindly staff and I’m delighted to be able to report that all is well. But the appointment was over three hours long and entailed having to get dressed and undressed a number of times and was also rather emotionally gruelling, as well as extremely painful at times. Small wonder that I was knocked back afterwards.

The huge light at the end of this tunnel is that I am now able to write, once my energy levels improved again. I’ve been editing for a while – but not said too much about it, as initially every time I mentioned I was able to work on my manuscripts, I then promptly found I couldn’t. And it massively mattered to me that I’d lost my ability to write – to be honest, it’s been one of hardest things I’ve had to cope with. And – yes – I know I’ve been regularly knocking out a steady stream of reviews. But while I enjoy recording my responses to the books I’ve read, I don’t define myself creatively by my non-fiction output. For me, it’s always been about the stories I tell. I’ve been writing science fiction and fantasy for longer than I care to think and to quote the late great Terry Pratchett, ‘Writing is the most fun you can have by yourself.’ I’ll fully endorse that! And when I simply didn’t have the mental energy to hold a character and his story in my head long enough to get it down onto the page, I was devastated. Though the big silver lining was said lack of energy meant that devastation was overlaid by a Zenlike calm caused by my inability to feel very much about anything. So when this week, I finally completed the chapter I’d started before I went down with Covid, I wept with relief that my secret dread – that I’d never regain my ability to write – hasn’t come to pass. I’m thrilled that dear old Castellan is back in my life in all his grumpy glory😊.

Our Boomerang Boy is back with us this weekend, which is another joy. He cycled over on Friday night and will be going home again later today. We went shopping together in Rustington yesterday – he is such good company. And today, my sister is coming over to see us, which is also such a treat. Himself is, as ever, my rock and my saviour – even though my relapse coincided with his annual leave so that we ended up doing very little and going nowhere together, despite optimistic plans for day trips to places we’ve missed seeing for the past year and bit. I’m so blessed that his love, constancy and care has never faltered.

This week I’ve read:-

Veiled Threat – Book 3 of the Highland Magic series by Helen Harper
Integrity Taylor has regained possession of her ancestral lands – and inherited a whole host of new problems. The spectre of what really happened to her parents is casting a shadow over everything while Fomori demons are being sighted up and down the Highlands. It doesn’t help that Aifric Moncrieffe still seems determined to see her dead and emerald-eyed Byron remains stubbornly blind to his father’s true nature.

Integrity is determined to stay in control of her own destiny, however, even if it means confronting the darkness across the Veil yet again. And at least she’s still got a sense of humour…
Harper has nailed writing feisty heroines facing huge odds, who cope with dollops of often inappropriate humour – which I thoroughly enjoy. This latest adventure also has brought some intriguing twists to the ongoing narrative arc, which means it won’t be long before I tuck into the next book, which I think is the final one in this entertaining series. Which, I’m dreading – as I’ve grown very fond of Integrity. 9/10

AUDIOBOOK – Od Magic by Patricia A. McKillip
Brenden Vetch has a gift. With an innate sense he cannot explain to himself or describe to others, he connects to the agricultural world, nurturing gardens to flourish and instinctively knowing the healing properties each plant and herb has to offer. But Brenden’s gift isolates him from people–and from becoming part of a community.

Until the day he receives a personal invitation from the wizard Od. She needs a gardener for her school in the great city of Kelior, where every potential wizard must be trained to serve the Kingdom of Numis. For decades the rulers of Numis have controlled the school, believing they can contain the power within it–and punish any wizard who dares defy the law.But unknown to the reigning monarchy is the power possessed by the school’s new gardener–a power that even Brenden isn’t fully aware of, and which is the true reason Od recruited him…
This standalone fantasy adventure is a joy. I was hugely impressed by McKillip’s The Forgotten Beasts of Eld – see my review. So jumped at the chance to tuck into this one when it came up as a freebie with my Audible membership. And I wasn’t disappointed – it’s stood the test of time very well. I particularly enjoyed the shafts of dry humour throughout and loved dear Brendon. Though it’s a pity that the cover decided to depict Od as some glamorous maiden, when McKillip is at such pains to describe her so very differently. 9/10

Death and Hard Cider – Book 19 of the Benjamin January series by Barbara Hambly
September, 1840. A giant rally is being planned in New Orleans to stir up support for presidential candidate William Henry Harrison: the Indian-killing, hard-cider-drinking, wannabe “people’s president”. Trained surgeon turned piano-player Benjamin January has little use for politicians. But the run-up to the rally is packed with balls and dinner parties, and the meagre pay is sorely needed.

Soon, however, January has more to worry about than keeping his beloved family fed and safe. During an elegant reception thrown by New Orleans’ local Whig notables, the son of a prominent politician gets into a fist-fight with a rival over beautiful young flirt Marie-Joyeuse Maginot – and, the day after the rally is over, Marie-Joyeuse turns up dead. The only black person amongst the initial suspects is arrested immediately: January’s dear friend, Catherine Clisson. With Catherine’s life on the line, January is determined to uncover the truth and prove her innocence. But his adversaries are powerful politicians, and the clock is ticking . . .
What a treat. Hambly’s vivid evocation of the time and place had me dreaming of it – and I am just a bit in love with Benjamin January. It’s the first time I’ve read this series, but it certainly won’t be the last. 10/10

AUDIOBOOK – Destroyer – Book 7 (Sequence 3, Book 1) of the Foreigner series by C.J. Cherryh
It has been two years since the starship Phoenix left Alpha Station on a rescue mission where over four thousand human spacers were under attack by a hostile alien race. Now, exhausted from their journey, the crew of the Phoenix yearns for home. But when the ship makes the jump into atevi space, they learn the worst: that supplies to the station have been cut off; that civil war has broken out on the atevi mainland; that the powerful Western Association has been overthrown; and that Tabini-aiji, Bren Cameron’s primary supporter and Ilisidi’s grandson and ally, is missing and may be dead.

With no one left to lead the Western Association, Ilisidi and Bren know that the survival of their allies lies in their hands. And with the atevi world at war, the only safe landing strip lies on the human colony at Mospheira. Although there are many dangers inherent in bringing a powerful atevi leader such as Ilisidi onto human lands, Bren realizes they have no other choice. But even if they safely survive their landing, will Bren and Ilisidi together prove strong enough to muster the remaining shards of the Western Association and regain control of their planet?

The long-running Foreigner series can also be enjoyed by more casual genre readers in sub-trilogy installments. Destroyer is the 7th Foreigner novel. It is also the 1st book in the third subtrilogy.
This audiobook was a lifesaver during a couple of particularly wretched nights when I simply couldn’t sleep, despite feeling utterly exhausted – not a combination I recommend. Daniel May’s brilliant narration brought poor old Bren’s current woes to life and had me crouching in the pouring rain alongside him, hoping that all his associates would survive the desperate battle raging around him. This series really comes into its own when listening to it and I’m delighted there are plenty more Foreigner adventures to enjoy. 9/10

Delusions of the Past – Reg Rawlins #6 – Books 4-6 of the Reg Rawlins, Psychic Investigator series by P.D. Workman
What kind of a monster poisons a psychic’s cat? When Starlight first fell ill, Reg thought that she was the cause of it. She should have been watching him more carefully. She should have found out about household plants and chemicals that could hurt her familiar. She was clearly a negligent owner.

But it soon becomes clear that there is some darker force at work, and Reg is going to need all of her resources to find the culprit before it is too late if she is to have any chance of saving her furry companion’s life.
I really enjoy this series. Some cosy mystery series are so slathered in treacle they become frankly sickly – this one isn’t. In amongst the cute pets and intriguing fantasy creatures is a hard edge that means the story can often take an unexpected turn to a place just dark enough to keep me turning the pages, desperate to discover what happens next. And with Workman, you can’t ever really predict what that will be… I’ve just spent money we don’t really have to buy the next bundle, because I want more Reg Rawlins in my life. 8/10

This week I have posted:

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Death and Hard Cider – Book 19 of the Benjamin January series by Barbara Hambly

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Knave of Secrets by Alex Livingston

Can’t-Wait-Wednesday featuring The Veiled Masters: a Twilight Imperium novel by Tim Pratt

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 – 8th June, 2022 #Brainfluffbookblog #CWC #WOW

Standard

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 Veiled Masters: A Twilight Imperium novel by Tim Pratt – release date – 21st June, 2022

#science fiction #space opera adventure #alien encounter #feisty heroine

BLURB: The balance of power is shifting, with bold new alliances, unknown invaders, and the rumored return of the galaxy’s ancient masters. When black-ops spy Amina Azad saves a Hacan ambassador from assassination, she draws him into her investigation of a vast conspiracy: unseen forces are destabilizing the whole galaxy, at the worst possible time. Pursued by agents from dozens of other factions, they can only make progress by allying with their apparent enemies. But even they might be compromised – duped into action by a secret puppet-master. How can they trust an alliance when they can’t trust themselves?

I thoroughly enjoy Tim Pratt’s writing and have read another book in this series – The Necropolis Empiresee my review. I hadn’t appreciated before I acquired the arc that the novel is a spin-off from the board game Twilight Imperium, because if I had, I wouldn’t have bothered with it. Which is a happy accident, as I thoroughly enjoyed the rip-roaring space opera adventure, which was full of twisty action with a thoroughly likeable protagonist. So I’m looking forward to some more enjoyable time in this engaging world.