Category Archives: blogging community

March 2020 Roundup – Reading, Writing and Blogging… #BrainfluffFebruary2020Roundup

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I’ve just read my roundup for February with a sense of unreality, because I didn’t once mention COVID 19. And whatever else I was chatting about, it didn’t include social isolation, daily death tolls and endless hand-washing. And now I’m going to take a deep breath and make that the last time I talk about that stuff. Because this is about carrying on as best we can, despite all that misery and fear. And maybe it’s rank cowardice, but I’m turning to the biggest consolation in my life, when the going gets tough. The one thing that never lets me down – books.

Reading
I read nineteen books in March, which I think is a record number. It was a really good month, with some cracking reads. This is the list:

Death of a Bean Counter – Book 12 of the Maggy Thorsen mystery series by Sandra Balzo – Review to follow

Song of Achilles AUDIOBOOK by Madeline Miller – this is my oustanding audiobook read of the month. Review to follow.

Feathertide by Beth Cartwright. Review to follow.

The Last Protector – Book 4 of the Lovett and Marwood series by Andrew Taylor

A Dying Fall – Book 5 of the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths.

Longbourn AUDIOBOOK by Jo Baker. Review to follow.

On Writing by Stephen King

Minimum Wage Magic – Book 1 of the DFZ series by Rachel Aaron

By the Pricking of her Thumb – Book 2 of the Real-Town Murders by Adam Roberts

The Case of the Missing Servant – Book 1 of the Vish Puri series by Tarquin Hall

Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer AUDIOBOOK – Book 1 of Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series by Rick Riordan

No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished – Book 3 of the Heartstriker series by Rachel Aaron. Review to follow

Interdicted Space – Book 2 of the Interstellar Space Agency by Gillian Andrews

War of the Maps by Paul McAuley

The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie

The Clutter Corpse – Book 1 of the Decluttering Mysteries by Simon Brett. Review to follow

Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Macksey – this is my outstanding book of the month. Review to follow.

A Dragon of a Different Colour – Book 4 of the Heartstriker series by Rachel Aaron

Writing
I finally completed the first draft of Mantivore Warrior in the second week of March. The book ended up being just over 103,000 words long – so much for thinking I was nearing the end at the 75,000 words mark! It took another 12,500 words to finish it and then I was quite ill for nearly a fortnight. I do need to learn to pace myself…

I’ve put it on one side and have been working on my first Creative Writing How-To book on Characterisation. It’s going reasonably well, I’ve just finished Chapter Five on Viewpoint, but it’s very different to writing fiction. I’m hoping to have it completed by the end of April – but with all that’s going on, inevitably that has to be more of a hope than a solid target. Overall, I wrote just over 48,000 words in March, with just over 15,000 words on my blog and just under 30,000 words going towards my writing projects, which brings my yearly total to just over 136,000 words so far.

Blogging
Like many others, I’m finding my online friends a real source of consolation. I can’t tell you how grateful I feel having so many lovely people around me from the book blogging community to talk books with. It’s at times like these that you discover what really matters and who has your back… Wishing everyone a peaceful, healthy April and stay safe.xx






Friday Faceoff – Tricks and treachery are the practice of fools… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceofftrickcovers

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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 VISUAL TRICKERY. I’ve selected The Whisper Man by Alex North.


This edition was produced by Celadon Books in August 2019. It’s it clever? The handprint that somehow turns into a butterfly works really well. And they haven’t even added a bit of colour to give us a visual clue, which would have been acceptable. I love the fact that ALL the information featured on the cover is the title, the author and the fact that this is a novel. For once the publishers have relied on the strength of the book design to sell this one – and judging by the numbers of reviews it garnered on Goodreads, this default cover did the business.

 

Published in June 2019 by Penguin, I think this is both beautiful and gruesome – and those aren’t two adjectives that go together all that often… The beautiful butterfly wing in the pale gold against the dark background is stunning – until you look a bit more closely and notice the details are skulls and parts of the human skeleton. The pin through the wing just adds to the sense of wrongness. But it is subtle and clever. This one is my favourite.

 

This Polish edition, published by MUZA S.A., in October 2019 is another cover that plays visual tricks. The white moth against the black cover couldn’t be more simple – until you look again and see it as a triangular, ghostly face. I also like the title font – the greying, slightly grubby look works really well with the monochrome effect of the rest of the cover and I applaud the designer in keeping it pared back. So many covers these days are so very busy. My only niggle – and yes, you’ll probably already know what I’m going to say, but I’ll say it anyway – are the lines of chatter under the melting moth/face. What a shame they had to be there, as they detract from the spare menace of the design.

 

This Bulgarian edition, produced by Сиела in 2019, has taken the butterfly – or is it moth? – theme in a different direction. There is a lot going on in this beautiful, ominous cover. The full moon outside provides all the light as a lightning forks across the sky and those moths flutter around the window. Nothing much to see – except the curtain has been drawn back and there is a single palmprint on the glass. If the owner of the hand pressed against the window was standing in front of it, s/he/it had to be outside… It’s cleverly done and gives a disturbing sense of wrongness without recourse to any kind of horror trope.

 

This Macedonian edition, published by Сакам Книги is less subtle, but I absolutely love the jagged cut across the title font which works so well. I’m not quite as thrilled with the spatter of blood, but that butterfly… Is it resting on the chin of a face, just below a screaming mouth? Or is that just my imagination working overtime? The indistinctness adds to the horror vibe. If I have a quibble, I think the abandoned house beneath the title font is an unnecessary addition – they should have trusted the strength of that single, shocking image, rather than hedging their bets with another horror trope. Which is your favourite?

Sunday Post – 29th 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 most people, I’m staying at home, though Himself is still out driving trains. We’ve worked out a system whereby he puts his uniform into the washing machine before coming into the house and so far… so good.

Last Monday, on her second day in the new house, my daughter woke up with a temperature, joint and stomach pains and a cough. So she ended up being quarantined in the house without the children. She is now feeling a lot better, but it’s been a long week for her. Thank goodness she is recovering and the children don’t seem to have had any symptoms. Other than that, we keep in touch with family via Skype and Zoom. It was a huge relief to hear my brother-in-law caught one of the last flights from Melbourne and is now back home safely. And we go on praying none of the vulnerable members of the family go down with the illness…

Still enjoying Outlander – but mightily disappointed with that DREADFUL last episode of Picard, when it had been going so well. Thank goodness for marvellous books – I’m listening to Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light – so very, very good! And I’m working on my book on Characterisation, which is growing slowly but surely. It’s interesting how different my writing patterns are for non-fiction, as opposed to fiction.

Last week I read:
The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie
For centuries, the kingdom of Iraden has been protected by the god known as the Raven. He watches over his territory from atop a tower in the powerful port of Vastai. His will is enacted through the Raven’s Lease, a human ruler chosen by the god himself. His magic is sustained via the blood sacrifice that every Lease must offer. And under the Raven’s watch, the city flourishes. But the power of the Raven is weakening. A usurper has claimed the throne. The kingdom borders are tested by invaders who long for the prosperity that Vastai boasts. And they have made their own alliances with other gods. It is into this unrest that the warrior Eolo–aide to Mawat, the true Lease–arrives. And in seeking to help Mawat reclaim his city, Eolo discovers that the Raven’s Tower holds a secret.
This fascinating story, told from an unusual viewpoint – using the second person (you) pov – caught me from the start. I loved the tension and Leckie’s handling of the perspective from a god who has lived a very long time.


The Clutter Corpse – Book 1 of the Decluttering Mysteries series by Simon Brett
Introducing an engaging new amateur sleuth, declutterer Ellen Curtis, in the first of a brilliant new mystery series.
That’s all the blurb there is – and this intriguing cosy mystery does just that – sets up Ellen as an engaging, competent protagonist with a doozy of a backstory. While I enjoyed the whodunit aspect, I was even more engrossed in Ellen as a fascinating protagonist and very much look forward to reading more about her. Review to follow.

 



Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller
1976: Peggy Hillcoat is eight. She spends her summer camping with her father, playing her beloved record of The Railway Children and listening to her mother’s grand piano, but her pretty life is about to change. Her survivalist father, who has been stockpiling provisions for the end which is surely coming soon, takes her from London to a cabin in a remote European forest. There he tells Peggy the rest of the world has disappeared.
I burned through this one, finding it impossible to put down. It’s an amazing read in many ways. For starters, the prose is absolutely beautiful and I enjoyed so much about this one… But for me, the pacing and narrative stuttered in the final stages, leaving me unhappy with the ending, both with its execution and the outcome.


The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Macksey
A book of hope for uncertain times.
Enter the world of Charlie’s four unlikely friends, discover their story and their most important life lessons. The conversations of the boy, the mole, the fox and the horse have been shared thousands of times online, recreated in school art classes, hung on hospital walls and turned into tattoos. In Charlie’s first book, you will find his most-loved illustrations and some new ones too.
My lovely sister-in-law sent this to me and I absolutely love it – the beautiful drawings and the messages of truth and hope that shone off the pages. It had me weeping and laughing at the same time. It isn’t long, but I shall be returning to it regularly. Especially in the coming days and weeks…


My posts last week:

Friday Face-off featuring Circe by Madeline Miller

Review of A Season of Spells – Book 3 of the Noctis Magicae series by Sylvia Hunter

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of War of the Maps by Paul McAuley

Review of AUDIOBOOK A Hat Full of Sky – Book 32 of the Discworld series, Book 2 of the Tiffany Aching series by Terry Pratchett

Sunday Post – 22nd March 2020

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

Books That Made Me Smile, Laugh, Inspired Me & Gave Me Hope https://hookedonbookz.com/2020/03/26/books-that-made-me-smile-laugh-inspired-me-gave-me-hope/ A very useful list – that includes The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse…

Coping Tools https://randomactsofwriting.wordpress.com/2020/03/25/coping-tools/
Another useful and uplifting article that I really appreciated and thought others, too, might enjoy reading…

Book Tag – The Secret World of a Book Blogger https://comfortreadsbookblog.wordpress.com/2020/03/26/book-tag-secret-life-of-a-book-blogger/ I’m a nosy person – my excuse is that I’m a writer, but I couldn’t pass up this insight into a fellow book blogger’s process behind the articles…

House Arrest https://jaceybedford.wordpress.com/2020/03/24/house-arrest/ Another great insight into how successful sci fi/fantasy author is coping with self isolating…

Giving Up Oxford https://infjphd.org/2020/03/24/giving-up-oxford/ A beautiful homage to one of our loveliest cities and a thoughtful article about lost opportunities and curtailed plans due to the virus…

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

Friday Faceoff – Off the leash… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceofffreebiecovers

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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 FREEBIE covers. I’ve selected Circe by Madeline Miller, which I absolutely loved. And I also love every one of these covers…

This edition was produced by Boomsbury Publishing UK in April 2018. Isn’t it gorgeous? I love the warm colours that reference the Greek art on ancient pottery and the beautiful title font running from top to bottom of the urn, giving it a strikingly different look. And those flowers with the shading and beautiful detail… I think this is one of my all-time favourite covers and it was this design that prompted me to buy this one. I’m so glad I did…

 

Published in April 2018 by Little, Brown and Company, this is also a wonderfully striking effort. That Grecian face staring out at us, both imperious and slightly sad, draws our gaze. Once again, the warm orange and black colour scheme is both attractive and references Greek artefacts, as does the border detailing. I also like the title font, which works well. However, I do think it’s a shame to clutter this lovely design with unnecessary chatter, compromising the look and feel of the cover.

 

This edition, published by Bloomsbury Publishing in April 2019, is another wonderful design, given it’s a pared-down, less luscious version of the first cover. Once again, the colour scheme just sings out – and I love the Grecian urn with that lovely raised title font. It would look even more stunning if we didn’t, have that wonderful jar-shaped space stuffed with a load of pointless chatter, which despoils this cover more than any of the others, I think. I also love the background, directly referencing some of the ancient Greek figures depicted on artefacts.

 

This edition, produced by Pocket in May 2019, is another fabulous effort. A wonderful, subtle design that has stolen my heart. And NO annoying chatter to compromise and detract from the intended visual impact – and doesn’t it just look so much better for it? Not that I’m ranting. At all. Nope. This was so very nearly my favourite…


This French edition, published by Rue Fromentin in May 2018, is a bit different from the rest – for starters, it has broken away from the orange and black colour scheme. I love the soft-focus figure offering up a charger, presumably to a god. Though I’m guessing it wouldn’t be Zeus… It’s a beautiful image, the shape of the woman and colouring working well in making this a cover full of mystery. So this is my freebie selection – which is your favourite?

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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






Review of HARDBACK edition of Recursion by Blake Crouch #Brainfluffbookreview #Recursionbookreview

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I thoroughly enjoyed Crouch’s super-charged sci fi thriller Dark Matter – see my review – and so was keen to get hold of this one, as many folks whose opinion I respect said Recursion was better than Dark Matter. So I was absolutely delighted to discover that I’d won a beautiful hardback copy in a giveaway organised by Tammy of Books, Bones and Buffy.

BLURB: What if someone could rewrite your entire life?
‘My son has been erased.’
Those are the last words the woman tells Barry Sutton before she leaps from the Manhattan rooftop. Deeply unnerved, Barry begins to investigate her death only to learn that this wasn’t an isolated case. All across the country, people are waking up to lives different from the ones they fell asleep to. Are they suffering from False Memory Syndrome, a mysterious, new disease that afflicts people with vivid memories of a life they never lived? Or is something far more sinister behind the fracturing of reality all around him?

This one starts with a bang and doesn’t let up. Like Dark Matter, Crouch gives his sci fi premise a real contemporary thriller feel with the punchy pacing and driving narrative. The surprise-filled, twisting plot sucks you in and doesn’t let go until the last page, so that I read this one in two greedy gulps and judging from the comments of other reviewers, I’m not alone in being unable to put this one down until the end. One of Crouch’s strengths is that I really cared about the two main protagonists. Both Barry and Helena are good people, trying to do their best in increasingly dreadful circumstances and I held my breath, hoping against hope that – somehow – they’d prevail.

I was pleased to see that even the main antagonist had strong reasons for doing what he’d done, so that while I couldn’t condone his actions, I could at least understand them. I really liked the way the stakes around this huge discovery kept getting greater, until that terrible climactic scene in the middle of New York… I had to put the book down for a while at that point, as I needed to draw breath.

Of course, the catch with raising the stakes so very high, is that the denouement and ending have to be able to match them. While it hadn’t been a dealbreaker, I wasn’t wholly happy with the end of Dark Matter. However this time around, Crouch brings the story to a great conclusion, with plenty of poignancy and heartache along the way. Far too often, apocalyptic sci fi focuses on the geeky consequences of the catastrophe, leaving characters with all the charisma of cardboard cutouts – not so Crouch. I minded what happened to these people and felt very invested in their ultimate wellbeing. As I rather shakily closed this book for the last time, I took a couple of deep breaths, feeling very relieved that I wasn’t a character in one of Crouch’s worlds.
10/10







Sunday Post – 15th 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.

It’s been an up and down week. I’m still not fully recovered, so didn’t feel up to any fitness regime. We treated ourselves to a smart TV, so have been tucking into Picard, The Crossing, The Expanse and Outlander – all of which I’m loving. It seems a very good time to binge-watch escapist adventures, given how terrifyingly interesting Real Life is becoming. My thoughts go out to everyone, hoping you are all remaining safe and well…

On Wednesday, Himself and I went out for lunch at Haskins, enjoying the swathes of daffodils growing on the roadside and on Friday I drove to Brighton to spend the day with my daughter. It was a lovely sunny day and I thoroughly enjoyed watching my granddaughter having her swimming lesson – what a great age to become water confident. Only just walking, she is learning to enjoy putting her head under the water, splash about in the pool and hold onto the side. This morning, I met up with my sister and we had breakfast together at our favourite riverside café, putting the world to rights – which took some doing. I am making the most of getting out and about while I can and spending time with the people I love.

Last week I read:
AUDIOBOOK Longbourn by Jo Baker
In this irresistibly imagined belowstairs answer to Pride and Prejudice, the servants take center stage. Sarah, the orphaned housemaid, spends her days scrubbing the laundry, polishing the floors, and emptying the chamber pots for the Bennet household. But there is just as much romance, heartbreak, and intrigue downstairs at Longbourn as there is upstairs. When a mysterious new footman arrives, the orderly realm of the servants’ hall threatens to be completely, perhaps irrevocably, upended.
I’m a bit torn by this one. While the worldbuilding was brilliantly done and I very much appreciated seeing the Bennet family through the lens of the servants, the pacing was too slow in places – and that ending…! Review to follow.



On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported near-fatal accident in 1999 — and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it — fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.
This was a reread, given I’ve started writing my own How-To book on Characterisation. It was just as enjoyably chatty and informative as I recalled, though some of the advice on how to get your work noticed is outdated.



Minimum Wage Magic – Book 1 of the DFZ series by Rachel Aaron
My name is Opal Yong-ae, and I’m a Cleaner: a freelance mage with an art history degree who’s employed by the DFZ to sort through the mountains of magical junk people leave behind. It’s not a pretty job, or a safe one—there’s a reason I wear bite-proof gloves—but when you’re deep in debt in a lawless city where gods are real, dragons are traffic hazards, and buildings move around on their own, you don’t get to be picky about where your money comes from. You just have to make it work, even when the only thing of value in your latest repossessed apartment is the dead body of the mage who used to live there.
This is a spinoff from the amazing Heartstriker series – though you don’t need to read one to appreciate the other. Seeing as I’m loving the quirky world Aaron has forged, I was happy to dive into this offering. Review to follow.



By the Pricking of Her Thumb – Book 2 of the Real-Town Murders series by Adam Roberts
Private Investigator Alma is caught up in another impossible murder. One of the world’s four richest people may be dead – but nobody is sure which one. Hired to discover the truth behind the increasingly bizarre behaviour of the ultra-rich, Alma must juggle treating her terminally ill lover with a case which may not have a victim.
Another gnarly case for the amazing Alma, set in a dystopian world. I loved the character and the mystery – but Roberts does drift away from the main plot to eulogise about Stanley Kubrick’s films and discuss theories on the role of money in society…

 




The Case of the Missing Servant – Book 1 of the Vish Puri series by Tarquin Hall
The Case of the Missing Servant shows Puri (“Chubby” to his friends) and his wonderfully nicknamed employees (among them, Handbrake, Flush, and Handcream) hired for two investigations. The first is into the background of a man surprisingly willing to wed a woman her father considers unmarriageable, and the second is into the disappearance six months earlier of a servant to a prominent Punjabi lawyer, a young woman known only as Mary.
This book was part of my Valentine’s pressie from Himself – and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Hall’s depiction of contemporary India is vivid, unflinching, yet without being overly bleak or judgemental. I fell in love with Chubby when I read The Case of the Reincarnated Client and this book has cemented my affection for him.


My posts last week:

Friday Faceoff featuring WWW: Wake Book 1 of the WWW series by Robert Sawyer

February 2020 Roundup – Reading, Writing and Blogging…

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Winterbourn Home for Vengeance and Valor by Ally Carter

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Murder Your Darlings – Book 3 of the Francis Meadowes series by Mark McCrum

Sunday Post – 7th March 2020

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

How To Overcome Self Doubt as a Writer https://lorraineambers.com/2020/01/16/how-to-overcome-self-doubt-as-a-writer/ Having taught Creative Writing for 10 years, and written for more years than I care to recall – I’m aware just how crippling self doubt can be…

Women Building Art! https://platformnumber4.com/2020/03/07/women-building-art/ A lovely good news story about women achieving the highest accolade in a largely male-dominated industry…

Paul Brady, Arty McGlynn, Matt Molloy: Crazy Dreams (Hail St Patrick 2) https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2020/03/11/paul-brady-arty-mcglynn-matt-molloy-crazy-dreams-hail-st-patrick-2/ A fabulous article on Irish music from the awesome Thom Hickey

Thursday Doors – Cavan County Museum 5 https://jeanreinhardt.wordpress.com/2020/03/09/thursday-doors-cavan-county-museum-5/ Jean takes us back into the past…

Coronavirus and Parenting: What You Need to Know https://www.npr.org/2020/03/13/814615866/coronavirus-and-parenting-what-you-need-to-know-now?utm_campaign=storyshare&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_medium=social Given the nature of this unfolding emergency, arming our children with the knowledge to help them without overwhelming or terrifying them is a challenge. I thought this article was very helpful…

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

Friday Faceoff – Love, the exotic bird, came and went… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoffexoticcovers

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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 EXOTIC covers. I’ve selected WWW: Wake – Book 1 of the WWW series by Robert Sawyer – see my review.


This edition was produced by Ace Hardcover in April 2009. It’s a gorgeous cover, so pretty and unusual. As is often the case with particularly effective designs, it’s become the default cover for the book and quite right, too. Being the nitpicky misery that I am, I’m still huffing in exasperation at those nasty little textboxes that truncate this lovely effort. Why not do away them altogether? I also think the title font deserves more attention – it could have been far more exciting, against such an amazing backdrop. However, this one is certainly my favourite.

 

Published in June 2011 under the publishing imprint Urania by Mondadori, this Italian edition is one of the exceptions that hasn’t used the above cover. While I like the image, which I think is arresting and rather beautiful – I can’t work out why it is limited to that measly little circle, leaving an uninspiring expanse of white cover. Clearly, Urania has a number of devoted fans, otherwise I can’t think of any other reason why the publishing imprint would feature more prominently than the title or author.

 

This audio edition, published by Brilliance Audio in March 2010, is another, more successful, departure from the default cover. To be honest, this was so very nearly my favourite. For starters, the treatment of the author and title fonts work so much better. And once again, I love the colours and patterning – it is beautiful. But I really lost my heart to the first design…

 

This French edition, produced by Robert Laffont in February 2010, is taking a more monochrome approach to the personification of the internet. That said, it is a clever design as the more you look at it, the more you see. However, again, I think the title and author fonts have been badly handled. Why use black lettering against a backdrop of grey? Surely a bright red or glowing yellow embossed font would nicely pop, drawing the attention of potential readers?

 

This Chinese edition, published by 貓頭鷹出版 in December 2012 has another attractive design. Though I think it is spoilt by that ugly black textbox with all the chatter cluttering up the cover – given that the title is already incorporated within the artwork, it seems entirely unnecessary. Which is your favourite?

February 2020 Roundup – Reading, Writing and Blogging… #BrainfluffFebruary2020Roundup

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And here we are in March, already… The final week of February proved to be a bit grim as I became ill and rather miserable. The unending rain didn’t help, either… Nonetheless, it proved to be a reasonably productive month as I wrote just over 49,000 words altogether, with nearly 35,500 words on Mantivore Warrior, just over 11,500 words on the blog and just over 2,000 in lesson planning and evaluations.

Reading
I read twelve books in February and DNF’d an audiobook because I couldn’t get on with the narrator – the first time that’s happened to me. This is the list of twelve books I completed:

You Let Me In by Camilla Bruce – my outstanding read of the month
The Case of the Reincarnated Client – Book 5 of the Vish Puri series by Tarquin Hall
AUDIOBOOK Uprooted by Naomi Novi – audio read of the month
A Blight of Blackwings – Book 2 of the Seven Kennings series by Kevin Hearne
P is for Pluto – Book 3 of the Molly Marbles series by Jackie Kingon
AUDIOBOOK Salt Lane – Book 1 of the DS Alexander Cupidi series by William Shaw
Sacred Bride – Book 3 of the Olympus series by David Hair & Cat Mayo
Skyward – Book 1 of the Skyward series by Brandon Sanderson
The Doors of Eden by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valor by Ally Carter
Murder Your Darlings – Book 3 of the Francis Meadowes series by Mark McCrum
Magic Bites – Book 1 of the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews

Writing
I was some 75,000 words into Mantivore Warrior and decided that I was within touching distance of the end – so decided to blast for the finishing line. A mistake – I was nothing of the sort, given that I had a fair amount to tie up in this the last of the trilogy. And as I tried to prioritise my writing to the exclusion of everything else – I was a bit dismayed at just what a struggle it was as there are still a lot of calls on my time. And the stress of trying to push so hard pitchforked me back to feeling dreadful, both physically and mentally… Let’s hope I’ve learnt that lesson and don’t make the same mistake next time around.

Blogging
Given the car-crash I made of managing my work/life balance at the end of the month (I didn’t…) it won’t be a surprise to learn that keeping the blog going was an almighty fail. Sorry folks. It doesn’t help to drop all the balls, I know. But hopefully this won’t happen again! On the plus side, I’ve been buoyed and comforted by the kind messages and encouragement that I’ve been receiving about my decision to ease down on my blogging frequency. Thank you so much for taking the time to send said comfort – it’s been mightily appreciated and certainly justifies my decision NOT to completely walk away from my blog.