Category Archives: alien encounter

Sunday Post – 22nd March, 2020 #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.

Like everyone else, I’m reeling at how my world has changed. So far we are keeping well, as are the family, but we both have elderly parents. Mothering Sunday is something we have always celebrated and when we discovered that the Interflora service simply isn’t able to deliver flowers to my mother and mother-in-law – Himself insisted that we deliver them. Fortunately it’s doable, as both sets of parents live within a mile of each other. It’s a bit of a journey, though we made good time as the roads were a lot quieter than usual. We sat in the car and spoke on the phone, facing them through their windows as they opened their cards and admired the flowers. And we were able to blow kisses and tell our mothers how much we honour and love them, looking forward to the time when we can hug them again…

On Friday, my daughter and the family were moving, so Himself and I went to help. It was my job to keep little Eliza entertained in the front room, while furniture and bags of clothes and possessions were being loaded into the van. She is such a sunshine soul, and we had loads of fun together, but towards the end of the day, she was increasingly unhappy at the strangeness of it all – it’s so hard when you can’t explain what is going on. Himself was helping to carry furniture – fortunately they are only moving a short distance away – and reassemble bunk beds, etc. We staggered home around 8 pm, feeling a bit shattered – it’s times like these I realise I’m getting older… Fortunately, I heard from my daughter this morning and they are settling in. Eliza’s first night in the new home went reasonably well, too.

Last week I read:

AUDIOBOOK The Sword of Summer – Book 1 of the Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series by Rick Riordan
Magnus Chase has always been a troubled kid. Since his mother’s mysterious death, he’s lived alone on the streets of Boston, surviving by his wits, keeping one step ahead of the police and the truant officers. One day, he’s tracked down by an uncle he barely knows—a man his mother claimed was dangerous. Uncle Randolph tells him an impossible secret: Magnus is the son of a Norse god.
Rick Riordan does this so very well… Magnus is an engaging protagonist – brave, principled and often very funny. The retelling of the pantheon of Norse gods through the lens of a modern, streetwise teenager is entertaining and engrossing, seeing as Riordan’s superpower is also handling excellent action scenes. I’m so glad I’ve more of these books on my Kindle.




No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished – Book 3 of the Heartstriker series by Rachel Aaron
When Julius overthrew his mother and took control of his clan, he thought he was doing right by everyone. But sharing power isn’t part of any proper dragon’s vocabulary, and with one seat still open on the new ruling Council, all of Heartstriker is ready to do whatever it takes to get their claws on it, including killing the Nice Dragon who got them into this mess in the first place. To keep his clan together and his skin intact, Julius is going to have to find a way to make his bloodthirsty siblings play fair.
This is shaping up to be one of my very favourite urban fantasy series in a long time… It doesn’t hurt that it features dragons, of course. But I love the progression, whereby at the end of each book some important new questions are raised, while the current story is being wrapped up. Thank goodness there is more Heartstriker awesomeness to dive into.




Interdicted Space – Book 2 of the Interstellar Enforcement Agency by Gillian Andrews
The universe needs saving, but is this makeshift crew really the stuff of superheroes?
Nivala’s first interstellar patrol is interrupted by extremely unwelcome visitors. Mallivan may have to take them on board; he doesn’t have to like it. His vociferous crewmembers certainly don’t. He is right to be concerned. The youngest member of the team is in imminent, grave danger…
While I enjoyed the first book, I loved this one. The story really took off with loads of exciting, well written action featuring characters I cared about. One of the most enjoyable aspects of this series, is that Humanity isn’t behaving at all well – and Mallivan is regarded in some quarters as a traitor to his species…




War of the Maps by Paul McAuley
On a giant artificial world surrounding an artificial sun, one man – a lucidor, a keeper of the peace, a policeman – is on the hunt. His target was responsible for an atrocity, but is too valuable to the government to be truly punished. Instead he has been sent to the frontlines of the war, to use his unique talents on the enemy. So the lucidor has ignored orders, deserted from his job, left his home and thrown his life away, in order to finally claim justice.
I saw this one on Netgalley and immediately requested to read it – McAuley is one of my favourite authors. And this has been a solid joy. The world is under attack from a variety of horribly mutated creatures – and one of the few people who can make inroads on this terrible invasion is also a murdering monster. Do you overlook his crimes and discount his victims for the sake of enlisting his help in a desperate struggle for survival? Which is one of the fascinating issues addressed in this beautifully written, engrossing adventure which deserves a LOT more attention than it’s currently receiving. Review to follow.


My posts last week:

Review of NETGALLEY arc Interdicted Space – Book 2 of the Interstellar Enforcement Agency series by Gillian Andrews

Friday Face-off featuring The Naturalist series by Andrew Mayne

Review of Autonomous by Annalee Newitz

Review of HARDBACK Recursion by Blake Crouch

Sunday Post – 15th March 2020

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

#Lifeathome with #children during #Selfquarantine: more excellent #online and #handsonactivities for #reading, #geography, #science, and #art courtesy of @anneclairewriter https://jeanleesworld.com/2020/03/20/lifeathome-with-children-during-selfquarantine-more-excellent-online-and-handsonactivities-for-reading-geography-science-and-art-courtesy-of-anneclarewriter/ Jean is letting us into her life via her fabulous blog as she has to adjust her daily routine – teaching online, as well as educating and occupying a set of lively twin boys and a clever daughter…

Deadly Companions: a reading list for the pandemic https://earthianhivemind.net/2020/03/20/deadly-companions-a-reading-list-for-the-pandemic/ My personal response is to dive into escapist adventures and shut it all out – but this is for those of you who would like to confront the whole business headon and see what history and excellent fiction has to offer in the way of lessons…

The Ballad of the Dunny Roll https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ia0bfWbOLjY If you want a drop of humour to leaven the misery – this Aussie skit on our inexplicable lust for more toilet paper than we’ll ever need is hilarious…

A shoutout to women over forty! https://rantingalong.blog/2020/03/20/a-shout-out-to-women-over-forty/ This tribute to those of us no longer in the first bloom of youth makes for an enjoyable read, too…

All those deleted drafts. Let’s discuss. https://feedyourfictionaddiction.com/2020/03/all-those-deleted-drafts-lets-discuss.html For the bloggers – does this chime with your experiences?

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

Review of NETGALLEY arc Interdicted Space – Book 2 of the Interstellar Enforcement Agency by Gillian Andrews #Brainfluffbookreview #InterdictedSpacebookreview

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I read and enjoyed Termination Shock – see my review so I was pleased to see Interdicted Space available at Netgalley and was delighted to be approved to read and review it.

BLURB: The universe needs saving, but is this makeshift crew really the stuff of superheroes?
Nivala’s first interstellar patrol is interrupted by extremely unwelcome visitors. Mallivan may have to take them on board; he doesn’t have to like it. His vociferous crewmembers certainly don’t. He is right to be concerned. The youngest member of the team is in imminent, grave danger. People covet her privileged link to the mighty Chakran aliens, who can unlock spacetime itself…

While I enjoyed the first book, this is the one where Andrews hits her stride. Mallivan has always been good at thinking on his feet, but we see him continue to grow in experience as he continually gets pitchforked into the middle of life or death situations. I like the fact that he finds himself having to cope with the fact that some of those he leads into fights don’t return – the fact that people die matter in this adventure. And we also have Bull Cunningham making a reappearance – the antagonist I particularly love to hate. He’s well drawn. Charming and persuasive, he manages to make his stance sound very plausible – and it’s an interesting change to see the representatives for humanity on the wrong side, morally, which puts Mallivan at odds with his own species…

There is an interesting mix of aliens serving alongside Mallivan, mostly having been thrown together in the former book – particularly featuring young Zenzie, the eight-year-old who is bound to Mallivan by the ‘Savior Protocols’ after he saved her life, for as long as she lives. An offspring of a formidably gifted race, she was frankly something of an unbearable brat in the first book – however, this time around, while she still has her smug moments, there is a major plotline involving her and I was a bit shaken at just how emotionally invested I was in her continued wellbeing. It takes some writing chops to turn around a reader’s initial perception of a character to the degree that Andrews manages during the course of Interdicted Space.

I also liked the fact that Andrews clearly knows her science – in amongst the mayhem, we get plenty of slices of techie information that satisfied my inner nerd, without slowing the pace or throwing us out of the story. The only sticky point in this pleasing adventure, was the info dump right at the beginning, which I could have done without. Once that was out of the way, the pace picked up and I was swept away by the problems of Nivala and her plucky crew. I’m delighted that the third book in the series was published in January – I’ll be getting hold of it. Space opera this entertainingly enjoyable is not to be passed up when I’m this desperate for escapist adventure. Highly recommended for space opera fans – though I’d advise you to get hold of Termination Shock first. Like many indie books, these are very reasonably price and represent excellent value for money. The ebook arc copy of Interdicted Space was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Night Train to Murder – Book 8 of the Ishmael Jones series by Simon R. Green #Brainfluffbookreview #NightTraintoMurderbookreview

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I’ve been thoroughly enjoying this witty paranormal murder mystery romp – see my reviews of Till Sudden Death Do Us Part, Murder in the Dark, Into the Thinnest of Air, Death Shall Come, and Very Important Corpses so was delighted when I saw another addition to this series was about to be published and immediately requested the Netgalley arc.

BLURB: When Ishmael Jones and his partner Penny are asked to escort a VIP on the late-night train to Bath, it would appear to be a routine case. The Organisation has acquired intelligence that an attempt is to be made on Sir Dennis Gregson’s life as he travels to Bath to take up his new position as Head of the British Psychic Weapons Division. Ishmael’s mission is to ensure that Sir Dennis arrives safely. How could anyone orchestrate a murder in a crowded railway carriage without being noticed and with no obvious means of escape?

I’ve truncated the rather spoilery blurb and my advice would be that you avoid it to get the greatest enjoyment out of this read. I would also add that if this one appeals, don’t be put off by it being the eighth book in the series. Green structures his books so they can be read as stand-alones and although there is an overarching narrative, it isn’t one packed with lots of incident so that you can dip in and out of this series with relative ease.

Green specialises in locked room murder mysteries. This one was a doozy, although I had guessed the culprit well before the denouement. That said, it really didn’t matter all that much as far as I was concerned. I have grown very fond of Jones and Penny and I was also intrigued by the sudden appearance of the psychics and their impact on the espionage industry Jones is so heavily immersed in. I’d like to think that Mr Nemo will be making a reappearance in a later book.

These stories are firmly tongue-in-cheek, and while there wasn’t quite so much humour in this one, there were still a couple of moments when I laughed out loud. I enjoyed the grilling of the suspects and the claustrophobic atmosphere that Green is so good at developing. But for me, the highlight came right at the end when there is a sudden, almighty reveal that is a game-changer for this series and I am hoping very much that Green won’t be waiting too long before he produces book nine. I have to know what’s going to happen next!

Highly recommended for fans of paranormal murder mysteries that don’t take themselves too seriously. The ebook arc copy of Night Train to Murder was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
8/10

Friday Faceoff – With this ring… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoffringcovers

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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 covers with RINGS. I’ve selected the science fiction classic Ringworld by Larry Niven, which I read a very long time ago.

 

This edition was produced in September 1985 and all I can discover is that it is a mass market paperback and a US publication. It’s a very understated, rather gloomy affair, I think. While I think the Ringworld itself looks rather lovely, I think a beautiful nebula in the background would give the cover more visual impact. As for the title and author font – they are very clear, if rather boring.

 

Published in January 1988 by Orbit, this is a far better effort. The Ringworld is easier to see and the spacescape is more interesting. There’s just one major problem… and perhaps I’m being really thick here – but I can’t see a title. Is it just me? Or have Orbit actually forgotten to add the name of the book to this cover? Perhaps they figure everyone ought to know what this legendary best-seller is called.

 

This paperback edition, published by Del Rey in April 1988, gives a different view of the Ring. We’re near the centre looking outward at the struts. This is certainly the best effort so far. I also like the effort to make the title font more interesting and the overall effect is an attractive, eye-catching cover that gives a good sense of the genre.

 

This Polish edition, produced by Solaris in June 2010, is my favourite. I love the more dramatic rendition of an earlier Ringworld – that centre really pops. While the spacescape in the backdrop looks beautiful with two moons and the hint of spaceship… maybe. And I also like the attractive title and author fonts.

 

This ghastly effort is courtesy of Gollancz in April 2009. They went through a really dodgey phase regarding covers around that time, as I recall them bringing out a series of utterly dreary Discworld books. But this one has to take the biscuit for sheer awfulness. What WERE they thinking?? Hallo – the title of the book is Ringworld and it’s all about a world shaped like a ring. So why is there a paper STAR featured against a black background? I wouldn’t know this is a science fiction classic set in space by looking at the cover, in fact I’d probably assume it’s about origami. Apologies if it’s your favourite – but I needed to get that rant off my chest! Which one do you like best?

Review of NETGALLEY arc Termination Shock – Book 1 of the Interstellar Enforcement Agency by Gillian Andrews #Brainfluffbookreview #TerminationShockbookreview

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That lovely sci fi cover caught my eye and so did the blurb, so despite the fact that this book has already been released, I requested an arc and was pleased to be approved.

BLURB: Ryler Mallivan’s comfortable life as an upstanding young freighter captain has just imploded. Avaraks are storming the training ship he is on and the bullets being fired are not blanks. Interstellar war has broken out and unless he moves fast they will all be as stone dead as the instructor lying at his feet. But this is one conflict they can never escape. The cause of the trouble is far closer than they know and will bring Mallivan and his ragbag fledgling crew under ferocious attack from all sides. They are going to need all their wits about them if they are to stay alive. And they have to, because there is nobody else to save all their worlds from a doomsday weapon which is set to obliterate the entire universe.

This one starts with a bang and simply doesn’t let up. Mallivan tells the story in first person viewpoint (I), which works well as he and the small group of random folks who didn’t immediately die around him, struggle to survive. This sets the pattern for the whole tenor of the book as he and his team find themselves constantly on the back foot and in the middle of an interstellar crisis. This entertaining, action-packed space opera adventure is set in a universe where humanity has split into Flatlanders and Spacelanders. Neither like or trust each other and Mallivan is definitely a Spacelander, who doesn’t feel any kinship at all with the Flatlanders who are making a grab for a huge chunk of space that doesn’t belong to them, thus destabilising the fragile peace with the various alien species also sharing the space.

I enjoyed Mallivan as a main character – he is entertaining and vulnerable, yet still capable enough that he didn’t become overly irritating. Though the small alien girl, Zenzie, who he initially rescues quickly becomes a little pain. If I have a grizzle with this book, it’s that she becomes insufferably annoying and I like the fact that Mallivan also feels that way about her. I also think her character journey unbalances the story – I’m hoping that she will find herself away at boarding school during the next slice of the adventure, Interdicted Space which I’m definitely going to be getting hold of, as I want to know what happens next. Overall, this was a great deal of escapist fun with plenty of action, thrills and fights. Recommended for fans of space opera action stories. The ebook arc copy of Termination Shock was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
8/10

Friday Faceoff – Dark they were and golden-eyed… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceofffirstcontactcovers

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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 FIRST CONTACT covers. I’ve selected Foreigner – Book 1 of the Foreigner series by C.J. Cherryh, who writes this dynamic so very, very well…

 

This edition was produced by DAW in December 2004 and as you can see, it’s an anniversary edition – I’m still reeling at the thought that Foreigner was first released in 1994… I really like this cover – the aliens are spot on, as far as Cherryh’s description of them goes and poor old Bren is looking suitably worried between them, which is also nicely accurate. I also like the styling of the font and the warm tones. This was going to be my favourite, especially as it’s the cover design of the book we own.

 

Published in September 1995 by Mondadori, this Italian cover is my least favourite. It’s a long time since I read this one, but given the title, this image gives the impression that the book as about a bald man with a big gun and a bad attitude – and it isn’t. Bren certainly isn’t that kind of hero – he’s an academic who became caught up by a chain of events into being an ambassador for these warlike enigmatic aliens. It’s a shame, because as a cover, that is a really effective image with the gun looming out at us.

 

This Czech edition, published by Triton in 2003 2010, is also a good effort. The aliens ride huge shaggy beasts that look a bit mammoth-like, but are a great deal more highly strung. The image of one of these creatures seen through a porthole makes an interesting picture and certainly would have me wanting to pick this one up and take a closer look.

 

This Polish edition, produced by MAG in 1997, I think, the weakest of all the covers. I don’t think that spacescape works particularly well, as there is far too much going on, cluttering it up. And the image of the alien looks all wrong. Worse, it’s completely misleading as the aliens are not in space. Space never comes into it – they are on their home planet and have just evolved to have steam power. So… ineffective and misleading. And frankly ugly. Which is something I never thought I’d say about a spacescape.

 

This French edition, published by Mnémos in January 2012 is my favourite. I love the depiction of the aliens – there is a real sense of emotion and tension between them and the shadowing gives a sense of the mystery about them which pervades the book. The splashes of red really pop and I think this cover is both visually pleasing and bang on when depicting a really tricky book to nail down. Bren’s difficult position and sense of isolation also is apparent in the slump of his shoulders. It’s reminded me all over again just how much I loved the series when I first started reading it – and that I should get back into it. Which is your favourite?

Review of NETGALLEY arc Bone Silence – Book 3 of the Revenger series by Alastair Reynolds #Brainfluffbookreview #BoneSilencebookreview #Netgalley

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Having read and thoroughly enjoyed the first two books in this gothic YA space opera, Revenger and Shadow Captain. I was delighted to be approved to read this final instalment, Bone Silence, as I really wanted to know what happened to the Ness sisters.

BLURB: Two sisters ran away from home to join the crew of a spaceship. They took on pirates, faced down monsters and survived massacres . . . and now they’re in charge. Captaining a fearsome ship of their own, adventures are theirs for the taking. But Captain Bosa’s fearsome reputation still dogs their heels, and they’re about to discover that, out in space, no one forgives, and no one forgets . . .

Firstly, I’d recommend that if you haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading at least one of the previous books in this series, then don’t start with this one – put it back on the shelf and go looking for Revenger instead. While this story is still full of space battles, weird aliens fighting amongst themselves, and struggles to overcome peculiarly horrible diseases – a fair chunk of the book is taken up with resolving some of the big mysteries regarding the world and how it has come to be the way it is. If you haven’t read at least one of the previous books, not only will you find it difficult to understand what is going on – at least initially – you also won’t care as much as you should about the ongoing chaos and how to resolve it. I think Reynolds has managed to pull off a difficult balancing act – providing plenty of action and adventure with two spiky but ultimately sympathetic protagonists and yet also giving us a complicated world where the initial rules don’t actually apply. It is in this book we learn exactly what the dynamic is.

I am impressed at how much I still cared for both girls, given they aren’t particularly nice, which isn’t a surprise, given what they’ve gone through, and their own conflicted feelings about each other. There is a fair amount of sibling rivalry that causes friction and distrust, particularly at times when things are getting tricky. The characterisation is well handled throughout and I particularly liked the truly horrible antagonist Reynolds managed to produce in this book. After the horrors of Captain Bosa, I had thought that any other baddie in this series would be something of an anti-climax, but nasty Incer managed to be someone I loved to hate.

One of the outstanding aspects of this series is the dark, brooding Gothic quality of the writing which is sustained throughout all three books particularly effectively. This is a dystopian world where bad things happen to good people, however, there are enough shafts of light that it didn’t become too overwhelmingly grim, which is a tricky balance to accomplish. The ending worked, tying everything up satisfactorily, but without making it too tidy, which would have jarred in this universe. Highly recommended for fans of space opera with a bit of a difference. The ebook arc copy of Bone Silence was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
9/10

Series I Completed in 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #SeriesICompletedin2019

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The High King’s Vengeance – Book 2 of Malessar’s Curse duology by Stephen Poore
The duology takes the classic ingredients of an epic fantasy, gives them a jolly good shake and tips them out… I loved the way we find the protagonist is as much the most convenient fool in the neighbourhood as the special chosen one. And that she discovers in the second book that most of the assumptions she’d made in The Heir to the North were wrong. Disastrously so, as it happens. Both The Heir to the North and The High King’s Vengeance are highly recommended – despite the dodgy covers.

 

The Fall of Dragons – Book 5 of The Traitor Son Cycle by Miles Cameron
This epic fantasy comprises The Red Knight, The Fell Sword, The Dread Wyrm, A Plague of Swords and this concluding book – The Fall of Dragons. This high fantasy swords and sorcery adventure is chockfull of action with the battle scenes being particularly outstanding. Cameron wears armour and takes part in historical martial arts – and his own experience means he writes those aspects very well. Highly recommended for fans of epic fantasy and brilliant battle scenes.

 

 

Within the Sanctuary of Wings – Book 5 of The Memoirs of Lady Trent series by Marie Brennan
This gave the whole series an enjoyable twist as a huge development occurs in this particular book that is a complete gamechanger. I’ve loved following the feisty Lady Trent through all her adventures, comprising A Natural History of Dragons, The Tropic of Serpents, The Voyage of the Basilisk, In the Labyrinth of Drakes – as well as this final instalment. This is historical fantasy adventure is completely original take on dragons and is very highly recommended.

 

No Going Back – Book 5 of the Jon and Lobo series by Mark L. Van Name
You’re going to think I mostly read five-book series… But once I finished this military sci fi thriller, where a mercenary teams up with a discarded sentient warship, published in 2012 by Baen, I was really sad to see there were no other books featuring these two likeable, battle-scarred characters. The series comprises Jump Twist Gate, an omnibus edition of the first two books – One Jump Ahead and Slanted Jack, Overthrowing Heaven, Children No More and No Going Back – review to follow. Highly recommended if you like your military sci fi on the quirky, thoughtful side.

 

 

The Poison Song – Book 3 of The Winnowing Flame trilogy by Jen Williams
I’ve always enjoyed the sheer mapcap energy that pings off the page with Williams’ writing, but this trilogy is where she showed what she could really do in this genre mash-up, where science fiction and fantasy collide in a magnificent shower of sparks… This series comprises  The Ninth Rain and The Bitter Twins, in addition to The Poison Song. Very highly recommended.

 

 

The Unbound Empire – Book 3 of the Swords and Fire trilogy by Melissa Caruso
I loved these books right from the first line onwards. Caruso pulled me right into the middle of her delightful world, where each magic-user needed to be bound to a controller. So what happens when this happens by accident, rather than by design? The intense, assured writing won me over, and it was with real pain that I took the decision that this one couldn’t make the final cut in my 2019 Outstanding Reads list. This series comprises The Tethered Mage and The Defiant Heir as well as The Unbound Empire. This YA fantasy is very highly recommended.

 

 

AUDIO The Empty Grave – Book 5 of the Lockwood & Co series by Jonathan Stroud
This outstanding children’s alternate fantasy, where people who have died in troubled circumstances turn into feral ghosts who are capable of appearing at night and killing the living. And only children are able to see and fight them… Lucy tells her gripping tale throughout these books, which are funny, poignant and genuinely frightening in places. This series comprises The Screaming Staircase, The Whispering Skull, The Hollow Boy, The Creeping Shadow as well as The Empty Grave. This outstanding series is very highly recommended.

 

 

A Season of Spells – Book 3 of the Noctis Magicae series by Sylvia Hunter
It’s the world that Hunter has created here that makes this one stand out. I’ll be honest – I think the first book is the best one. But I’m glad I also read the other two, as they added breadth and depth to this intriguing and complex version of Regency Britain, where Christianity never prevailed, Roman gods are acknowledged and the country is still a patchwork of smaller kingdoms loosely united by treaties. This series comprises The Midnight Queen and Lady of Magick in addition to A Season of Spells – review to follow.

 

 

AUDIO How To Fight a Dragon’s Fury – Book 12 of the How To Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell
Written for reluctant readers, this children’s epic fantasy adventure featuring a small, very ordinary-looking Viking boy, who isn’t all that good at most of the Viking pasttimes. And whose hunting dragon is very small and very, very naughty drew me in from the first by the sheer quality of the characterisation and plotting. I have read these adventures to both children, until they both decided they wanted to complete the books on their own. So I finally finished listening to the last handful of books on my own. Hiccup’s exploits were funny, gripping and ultimately absolutely heart-breaking, so I wept as I listened to the epilogue of this instalment, feeling like I’d lost a cherished friend. This series comprises How To Train Your Dragon, How To Be a Pirate, How To Speak Dragonese, How to Cheat a Dragon’s Curse, How to Twist a Dragon’s Tale, A Hero’s Guide to Deadly Dragons, How to Ride a Dragon’s Storm, How to Break a Dragon’s Heart, How to Steal a Dragon’s Sword, How to Seize a Dragon’s Jewel, How to Betray a Dragon’s Hero as well as How to Fight a Dragon’s Fury. Very highly recommended for children of all ages, who believe in dragons ages…

 

The Violent Fae – Book 3 of The Ordshaw series by Phil Williams
Lynn of Lynn’s Book Blog recommended this series – and I thoroughly enjoyed this quirky urban fantasy adventure with a difference. Letty the foul-mouthed fairy who bounces right back became a solid favourite with me. This trilogy comprises Under Ordshaw, Blue Angel as well as The Violent Fae. Recommended for urban fantasy fans who are looking for something different.

 

 

 

AUDIO The Last Olympian – Book 5 of Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan
This children’s re-telling of the Greek myths, updated and made fresh when told through the eyes of young dyslexic half-blood, Percy Jackson. Frankie absolutely loved this series and so I thought I’d better discover what all the fuss was about. This clever, entertaining series comprises Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters, Percy Jackson and the Titan’s Curse, Percy Jackson and the Battle of the Labyrinth as well as The Last Olympian. Highly recommended for those who enjoy teenage coming-of-age fantasy adventures. I didn’t review any of these books on my blog, as I felt most of what I had to say had already been covered about this very popular series.

 

 

AUDIO Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Audio Collection by Arthur Conan Doyle, with forewords written and narrated by Stephen Fry
This marvellous collection of the four novels and all the short stories provided over seventy hours of quality listening as I was decorating the bathroom during the summer. I broke it up, listening to other books in between each of the six sections, stretching it out as long as I could – so it was with a real sense of loss that I finally arrived at the last section. Overall, I was impressed at how well much of Conan Doyle’s canon stood the test of time, although there were a handful of horribly racist stories I simply skipped.

These were the series I completed during 2019. I’ll be posting another article charting those I’m intending to continue throughout 2020. What about you – have you read any of these and did you enjoy them, too?

Sunday Post – 26th January, 2020 #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.

This week was another eventful one. Last Sunday, we were busy getting ready for Mhairi’s arrival on Monday. I was excited to see her, as she hasn’t been able to make the journey since before Christmas. We spent far too long talking into the night about all sorts of things – chiefly writing. We took the opportunity to set our annual Shoot for the Moon challenge and discuss the success of the 2019 targets we’d aimed for. And I have now established a really, really ambitious, long-term publishing schedule that takes me into 2023 – how’s that for long term planning? We also established a timeslot to Skype one another – something we kept promising to do, and yet didn’t… Her two-day stay flew past and all too soon, Wednesday morning came around and I was hugging her good-bye…

Not that I had much chance to think about it, as Himself and I were then planning our trip to London with Tim on Thursday to see the longest running play in the world – The Mousetrap. While the weather was a bit cold and dank, we counted it a win as it wasn’t snowing or pouring with rain and, apart from inexplicably getting lost on the way to the theatre from Leicester Square!!! (I STILL don’t know how we managed that one!) everything went according to plan. Tim was delightful company, thoroughly enjoying the buzz of being in London and coped really well with the Underground in the rush hour on our journey home. The performance was excellent, and sitting in such a beautiful theatre was a treat, anyway.

We have had a few quieter days, mostly because I seem to have picked up a minor stomach bug, which means I’m not keen to go anywhere too far away from my own bathroom. The upside to that is that I’ve managed to spend some time on my much-neglected novel, Mantivore Warrior, which has almost forgotten what I look like… As I’ve changed the dynamic, I’ve gone back to tweak the ending and the story arc in the outline and have been working hard on that.

Last week I read:

NOVELLA Sweep With Me – Book 4.5 of the Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews
Every winter, Innkeepers look forward to celebrating their own special holiday, which commemorates the ancient treaty that united the very first Inns and established the rules that protect them, their intergalactic guests, and the very unaware/oblivious people of [planet] Earth. By tradition, the Innkeepers welcomed three guests: a warrior, a sage, and a pilgrim, but during the holiday, Innkeepers must open their doors to anyone who seeks lodging. Anyone.
All Dina hopes is that the guests and conduct themselves in a polite manner. But what’s a holiday without at least one disaster?
In the excitement of seeing that another book in this series was available, I missed the bit where it mentioned it was a novella. So though I thoroughly enjoyed it, I was rather upset when it finished far too soon.

 

The Zero Curse – Book 2 of The Zero Enigma by Christopher G. Nuttall
Caitlyn Aguirre is no magician … But that doesn’t make her useless.

After discovering her true talent and uncovering the long-lost secret behind Objects of Power, Cat returns to school – intent on showing everyone what she can do. But her mere existence is a threat to the balance of power, convincing some to befriend her, some to try to use her … and some to remove her.

And when she and her closest friends become the target of a deadly plot, she must use all her wits to save them and escape before she becomes the first casualty in a deadly war.
I am a sucker for school-based fantasy adventures, and this one of Christopher Nuttall’s is excellent fun. I like his writing anyway, and this series deserves to be far better known. Review to follow.

My posts last week:

Friday Faceoff featuring The Stainless Steel Rat’s Revenge – Book 4 of the Stainless Steel Rat series by Harry Harrison

Shoot for the Moon Challenge – 2019 Roundup

Sunday Post 19th January 2020

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last few weeks over the Christmas break, in no particular order:

Writing Advice, Ranked https://writerunboxed.com/2020/01/18/writing-advice-ranked/ I always love Bill’s hilarious articles on writing – and that underneath the humour, there are invariably some nuggets of truth very deeply hidden…

Abstract Colors https://voyage-onirique.com/2020/01/21/abstrait-couleurs-abstract-colors/ It might be because I’m writing a lot about colours, as they are part of the communication between my protagonist and alien – but I found myself staring at this for a long, long time…

Losing My Sweet Dog https://readlorigreer.com/2020/01/23/losing-my-sweet-dog/ Such a moving tribute…

Wordless Wednesday https://redbirdsstorytime.wordpress.com/2020/01/22/wordless-wednesday-2/ What a fabulous image – a great prompt for a story. Or just looking at the shapes…

Celebrate #Maine Through Poetry https://4writersandreaders.com/2020/01/25/celebrate-maine2020-through-poetry/ Bette is always an inspiration – and this is one of my favourite poetry forms…

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you have a wonderful week.

Friday Faceoff – The Year of the Rat… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoffratcovers

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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 the theme for finding covers is RATS in honour of the Chinese New Year, which is the Year of the Rat. I’ve selected a book from a sci fi classic book series The Stainless Steel Rat’s Revenge – Book 4 of the the Stainless Steel Rat series by Harry Harrison.

 

This edition was produced by Ace Books in November 1986 and I just love that rat! Sadly, the rest sums up a lot of what I HATE in cover design. Someone went to the trouble of producing a really cool image. Then stuffed it in the bottom third of the cover, ensuring the rest of the cover is covered in a lot of chatter, interspersed with an uninspiringly pale blue title and author font.

 

Published in 1976 by Sphere Books, this edition is a far better effort. I love the horde of aliens sprinting towards us – an unusual tactic – but so very effective. The spaceships just add to the drama and incident, drawing my eye and keeping me riveted. And that isn’t the best thing about this one – it’s the wonderful bright colouring that sings out. The greenish hue around the alien warriors, looking threatening and the brighter orange shading around those ships – it’s so cleverly done. When looking down the list of covers, this one shouted at me. This is my favourite.

 

This edition, published by Bantam Books in July 1989, is another really striking effort. Again, I think the use of colour is both clever and effective in snagging readers’ attention. That bright yellow background is a fabulous contrast to the strong red title font. It’s interesting to note the ‘Bladerunner’ vibe in the styling of the cover design, particularly the figures.

 

This edition, produced by Berkley in February 1973, is frankly weird. Again the bright colouring pops, but what draws the eye here are those odd shapes. The man emerging from the mirrored metal female torso seems more disturbing, than anything else… I haven’t read this one, so I’m not sure what it is supposed to denote. Though many sci fi covers from that time made a point of featuring naked women, so perhaps this was as close as they could get…

 

This edition, published by Faber and Faber in 1971, is so nearly my favourite. I love the rat, looking suitably ferocious with a wind-up key in the side that adds an offbeat tone to the whole thing. And that funky font is clearly futuristic. This whole cover gives a sense of the genre with a strong humorous overtone – which as far as I can gather, is spot on as far as the book is concerned. What tipped the scales against it, is the rather dreary monochrome treatment – I would have appreciated more colour in this cover.

What strikes me is how remarkably different these covers all are, given they are for the same book! Which one is your favourite?