Category Archives: book series

Cover reveal for MANTIVORE WARRIOR – Book 3 of The Arcadian Chronicles series #MantivoreWarriorcoverreveal

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Mantivore Warrior, the third book in The Arcadian Chronicles series, now is decently clothed in a cover, designed by my awesome friend Mhairi Simpson. I love the series branding – she’s done a great job of evoking the sense of the tension surrounding Jessob, my new protagonist in this latest adventure to befall Vrox, my grumpy telepathic alien. Even if you haven’t read the first two books in the series, given that this book features a new protagonist and takes Vrox on a completely different undertaking – it’s a good entry point.

BLURB for MANTIVORE WARRIOR
Setting out to cross The Arids is always dangerous – but this time, when the survival of an ancient sentient species hangs in the balance – it could be lethal…

Jessob Jolanzo, raised within the most powerful and remote mantivore lair on the planet, has roamed The Arids since he was knee-high to a hen. Having succeeded in his seemingly impossible mission, he and his companions are returning with a message of hope to the beleaguered mantivore community. But the way things are going, they’ll need a huge helping of luck to return them safely to the hidden mantivore enclave.

Vrox, apex predator and telepath, holds in his head ancient secrets many powerful humans in Gloriosa Prime would rather keep hidden. And his lifelong captivity leaves him unprepared him for this brutal journey.

Mistress Felina Keeper, former village Storekeeper, is now MindLinked with Vrox and accompanying him on this trek. Resourceful and possessed of formidable mental strength, her presence should help. But Jessob is discovering that while middle-aged mantivores become ever tougher and stronger – the same isn’t true of ageing humans.

And when an attacker strikes from a completely unexpected quarter, it isn’t only future of the mantivore race in peril – Jessob risks losing his mind…

Mantivore Warrior is now available at Amazon on pre-order, with the release date on 31st August. If you are interested in reading a review copy, they are now available at Booksprout – and here is the link. Or if you’d rather approach me directly, as a regular visitor to the blog, then let me know below.

Here is a sneak peek…

CHAPTER ONE
It’s nearly my favourite place in all the world, sitting by a campfire after a long night’s trek. Though my pleasure was dented when Mistress Felina’s face crunched into the scowl I’d grown to dread. “Roaching lizards, again?”
“When roasted till crunchy, there’s nothing tastier.” I put the bundle of lizards down onto the rock beside her, having already gutted an’ beheaded them, after she’d grumbled about that. “Vroxy won’t—”
“I got the ringside seat to Vrox’s kill, thank-you kindly. And to him gobbling it up,” she snapped. “Still trying to wipe it outta my mind so’s I can think of supper without wanting to puke. And then you show up with a bunch of headless lizards!”
Vrox whickers pleadingly. Can Lordling ease our Queen’s aches, so Vrox can return to a peaceful fireside and warm his chilled scales?
It will be done, Vroxy. I’ll need more HealDrool from you when you get back, though, I Sent. Sorting through my pack, I found the right phial, unwrapped it an’ placed it beside me.
While stacking the kindling, Mistress Felina looked across, face-scrunching again as she spotted the phial. “Don’t need that. Not now, Jessob! I’m busy.”
You’re hoed flat an’ hurting. An’ busy proving that you aren’t a cripped old woman Vroxy an’ me should leave behind. Which we won’t cos you’re tired an’ sore, but we might if you go on being such a drab-scaled misery. I grinned at her, hoping to soften her mood.
Vrox squeals, horrified at Lordling’s slack-crested incivility to his Queen and wants her to know he’d no such thoughts.
Mistress Felina chuckled, a throaty, terracotta sound full of comfort an’ warmth, before putting the lizards in a pouch hanging from Leggsie’s round metal body. Leaving anything dead lying around in The Arids for more than a handful of heartbeats was asking for trouble.
I sucked in a deep breath, tasting the multi-coloured scents of the campfire, Leggsie’s blue, metallic tang an’ Mistress Felina’s musky ochre humanity. Staring up at the vast star-spattered sky vaulting overhead, I wondered what Dorn was doing… Is he part of a night-time reccie? Probably not. Probably LoveDrooled up to his neck crest an’ twining tongues with Gristor. Not an image I wanted to linger on.
I shifted across to the boulder next to Mistress Felina. “C’mon then. Let’s have them. The right one, first. That’s the one hurting most.”
Mistress Felina lifted her right foot with a wince, grumbling, “And that’s the trouble with this MindLinking flamdoodle. Some roaching teener starts telling you which foot is giving you the keenest grief.”
I propped her foot on my knees, unbuckled her boot an’ eased her swollen foot free. Squeezing out a tiny amount of HealDrool, I worked it into the roughened sole, marvelling at the way human elderly skin wrinkled an’ folded, so unlike mantivore hide. I made sure to gently knead extra across the purplish lump sticking out by her big toe joint, which ached most of all. I caught the name of it from her thoughts… A bunion. Sounds nasty an’ sore. “There’s nothing to stop you riding a hover-trolley, for a spell.”
“Don’t you start treating me like some lamed liability!” she snapped, yellow fear-notes threading through her voice. “I’ve been trudging through the roaching Arids before you were a kiss on your papa’s lips.”
“Aye, I know.” I lowered my voice an’ raised my mental shields so Vroxy couldn’t listen in – him still tending to MindSnoop. Even though we’d had plenty of talks on why he shouldn’t. “Thing is, Vroxy gets his scales in a swirl when you’re sore, or stenched. Or both. An’ we need him to track those stray vores nice an’ calmlike. He goes in remotely stirred up, that lord will reckon he’s trying to move in on his queen an’ cubs.”
Mistress Felina swapped over feet, already more relaxed as the HealDrool started doing its stuff. “Hm. That’s a thing I hadn’t considered.”
Mistress Felina accepting she might be wrong? That only happens once in a purple tide… Meanwhile I was coping with her relief from the pain, along with a giddying rainbow surge of pleasure as I applied the rest of the HealDrool. “Try raising your shields.”
She narrowed her eyes. “Hoeing you flat with my mind fluff, am I?”
“You’re loud.” So very, very loud. I pushed down my panic at the havoc her untrained Sendings could have on new-borns, cub-starved queenlings an’ mood-scurfed lords once we arrived at the Much-Tribute Horde. The Queen’s coterie will likely scoop her up an’ protect her, seeing as she tastes so powerfully of an old mantivore Queen full of wisdom. Won’t they?
She shut her eyes, breathing deeply.
I surfaced from the swamp of her pleasure at having no more aching feet, now I’d finished applying the HealDrool.
“How’s that?” she demanded, opening her eyes again. “Cos I’m all but rupturing my sorry self keeping my thoughts locked down.”
An’ you might as well not be bothering.

Review of INDIE EBOOK Flower Power Trip – Book 3 of the Braxton Campus mysteries by James J. Cudney #Brainfluffbookreview #FlowerPowerTripbookreview

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I enjoyed the first two books in this entertaining cosy whodunit series, featuring Kellan, see my reviews of Academic Curveball and Broken Heart Attack.

BLURB: At a masquerade ball to raise money for renovations to Memorial Library, Kellan finds a dead body dressed in a Dr. Evil costume. Did one of Maggie’s sisters kill the annoying guest who’d been staying at the Roarke and Daughters Inn, or does the victim have a closer connection to someone else at Braxton College? As Kellan helps school president Ursula bury a secret from her past and discover the identity of her stalker, he unexpectedly encounters a missing member of his family. Everything seems to trace back to the Stoddards: a new family who recently moved in. Between the murder, a special flower exhibit and strange postcards arriving each week, Kellan can’t decide which mystery in his life should take priority. But unfortunately, the biggest one of all has yet to be exposed – and when it is, Kellan won’t know what hit him.

REVIEW: Kellan is an engaging, likeable protagonist with a lot on his plate. On top of his academic duties at Braxton University, he is also trying to bring up his small daughter with the help of his beloved grandmother, Nana D. But his habit of tripping over dead bodies also means he gets caught up into trying to sort out who was responsible for these untimely deaths. A cosy murder mystery needs a few vital ingredients to be a truly enjoyable, engrossing read – there needs to be a sympathetic protagonist we enjoy following. Kellan certainly ticks that box.

We also need a steady supply of suitably plausible suspects with a sufficiently strong reason to off our murder victim. And this is why cosy murder mysteries are often set within small communities, where there are a pool of people at hand. Cudney is very good at this aspect – far too often the mystery component is rather neglected. But every single one of his books has been exceptionally well plotted.

The other tricky part of this demanding genre is ensuring that despite the fact we are dealing with a murder, the tone doesn’t get too dark or gritty – yet, neither can the mood be unduly flippant or descend into outright comedy. After all, there has been a murder. This balance is far harder to negotiate than Cudney makes it look – largely thanks to his knack of writing a varied cast of characters who are largely likeable, yet with edges that mean they aren’t too cute or unrealistic. And once again, the murder mystery part of this story is nailed, with plenty of twists and turns.

I also love the ongoing progression of the story, which also puts this series a cut above many others. Kellan’s relationships with some of the key characters in this community continues to evolve and develop, which gives readers of the series an extra reward that isn’t there for those who crash into it. That said, if anyone wanted to, there is no reason why this one wouldn’t work perfectly well as a standalone, or a prospective entry point. Although there is an ongoing major issue that Kellan is wrestling with regarding his personal life. And I was delighted to see that it is creating a fair amount of havoc – and leaves this story on a doozy of a cliffhanger. Fortunately, the fourth book, Mistaken Identity Crisis is available, so I will soon be diving back into this engaging world. Highly recommended for fans of well-written, cosy mystery murders.
9/10


*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Ghost Ups Her Game – Book 9 of the Bailey Ruth mysteries by Carolyn Hart #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #GhostUpsHerGamebookreview

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I was looking for a cosy mystery, wanting the comfort of something fixable and tidy as the world continues to spin into havoc – and happened upon this intriguing offering. I don’t often read ghostly investigators, although I know it’s a popular sub-genre of fantasy crime. So would I enjoy this one?

BLURB: After a busy morning dispatching emissaries from Heaven’s Department of Good Intentions to those in need, Bailey Ruth Raeburn is feeling flush with success. So when an urgent call for help comes through from her old hometown, she can’t resist taking on the mission herself. After all, what could go wrong? With the shouted warning of her boss, Wiggins – “Irregular! Problematic!” – ringing in her ears, she arrives to face a shocking scene: Professor Iris Gallagher leaning over the corpse of her colleague Matt Lambert, the murder weapon clutched in her hand. Bailey Ruth is only sent to help the innocent, but things are looking very black for Iris. With Wiggins breathing down her neck, and her old friend Police Chief Sam Cobb casting doubt on her every theory, Bailey Ruth must uncover the truth – or this could be the last trip to earth she’s ever allowed to make.

REVIEW: First, let’s get the fact that this is the nineth book in the series out of the way – it isn’t an issue. While initially I was a bit adrift and do feel that there could have been just a little bit more context as to exactly how Bailey got this particular job, once the investigation got under way, it was fairly easy to work out what was going on. And the fact that this is Bailey’s home patch, where she lived when she was alive made it sufficiently plausible for me to suspend my disbelief.

Besides, I like Bailey. She is generally a very chirpy, upbeat character who seems to thrive on a bit of excitement and chaos going on around her. Although there was a point when everything was going wrong that she became overwhelmed and had a crisis of confidence – I liked that, too. While it was a pleasant change to have a confident protagonist, who wasn’t particularly angst-ridden, I felt Hart successfully avoided her also coming across as unduly smug, which wouldn’t have worked during this particular investigation.

What you won’t get with this one is a foot-to-the-floor action-filled adventure. It’s a steady accumulation of clues, as the suspects are each lined up and eliminated. I very much enjoyed the murder mystery aspect of this story – it was well handled with a reasonable number of suspects. And unlike some cosy mysteries, there was a real sense of loss and outrage at the death of a couple of the victims – at the cutting short of their lives and the waste of what they had to offer. Overall, this is an entertaining, enjoyable murder mystery written by an experienced author who knows what she is doing – recommended for fans of cosy mysteries with a paranormal twist. While I obtained an arc of Ghost Ups Her Game from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Seven Devils – Book 1 of the Seven Devils series by Laura Lam and Elizabeth May #BrinfluffNETGALLEYreview #SevenDevilsbookreview

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I was thrilled to be approved for an arc for this book. However, when I started reading it, I had a massive struggle getting into the story – because throughout the text all through the book were the words NOT FOR SALE OR DISTRIBUTION randomly appearing in the middle of sentences. It made it very difficult to connect with the story. After appealing to Orion, they did send me a PDF which had watermarked pages, instead, making it much easier to read – but the catch was that I could only read that on my desktop. I spend HOURS in front of my computer every day – I read for fun and relaxation on my Kindle. I did try… but it wasn’t fun, so in the end I returned to the version with the phrase running through it and persevered. Though I won’t be using the word DISTRIBUTION in my own writing any time soon.

I know piracy is an ongoing issue for publishers and I am aware that a few reviewers abuse the privilege we’ve been given in being allowed to read advance copies, but I’m not sure this is the answer. It is a cracking story – but being constantly yanked out of the story really hampered my enjoyment. I have tried my best to not allow this issue to influence my honest opinion of the book, but I’m not sure if this would have been a solid 10 from me if I hadn’t had such a struggle. If that’s the case, what a shame…

BLURB: When Eris faked her death, she thought she had left her old life as the heir to the galaxy’s most ruthless empire behind. But her recruitment by the Novantaen Resistance, an organization opposed to the empire’s voracious expansion, throws her right back into the fray. Eris has been assigned a new mission: to infiltrate a spaceship ferrying deadly cargo and return the intelligence gathered to the Resistance. But her partner for the mission, mechanic and hotshot pilot Cloelia, bears an old grudge against Eris, making an already difficult infiltration even more complicated.

When they find the ship, they discover more than they bargained for: three fugitives with firsthand knowledge of the corrupt empire’s inner workings.

REVIEW: This is an ensemble narrative, as this group of desperate women of driven to face overwhelming odds to try and fight back a corrupt and inhuman system. I loved the dynamic and real danger posed by the deep programming inserted in every loyal Tholosian, who won’t hesitate to attack if they suspect they are facing a traitor. Life is both cheap and merciless – this dystopian society is rotten right to the top.

It would have been so easy for either author to have resorted to chunks of info-dumping. However, they manage to avoid such measures by giving us chapters in alternating viewpoints and also providing flashbacks to show how each character arrived at the stage where they’re prepared to risk all. It’s well done. Not only have May and Lam managed to keep the plot moving forward, those flashbacks heighten the stakes and strengthen readers’ bonding with the protagonists, which is always more of a challenge when there are more than one or two protagonists in the mix.

The gathering sense of drama as this book moved to the final denouement is what really sets it apart, however. I love May’s writing – it was the prospect of reading a space opera adventure written by her that prompted me to request this book, after her fabulous Falconer trilogy – see my review of The Falconer, The Vanishing Throne and The Fallen Kingdom. She writes with the brakes off – and this book is imbued with that madcap energy I have grown to associate with her style and works brilliantly during the closing climactic scenes. I couldn’t put this one down as that ending played out – and I do hope we don’t have to wait too long for the second book, because it ends on a real cliffhanger that had me dreaming of the world. Highly recommended for all space opera fans. The ebook arc copy of Seven Devils was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.

9/10

Series I’ve Completed So Far in 2020… #Brainfluffbookblog #SeriesCompletedSoFar-2020

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Witch – Book 2 of the Doppleganger duology by Marie Brennan
Created by the merging of witch and doppelganger, Mirei is a unique being. Her extraordinary magic makes her the most poweful witch alive—and a notorious social outcast. While Satomi, the leader of the witches’ ruling Primes, hails Mirei as a miracle, rival Primes proclaim that Mirei is an evil abomination… and that those who champion her must be destroyed. Now the different witch factions engage in a bloody war with magic, treachery, and murder. But both sides may be fighting for nothing. For the power that the rebel Primes fear, the magic that Mirei alone possesses, is killing her.

Thoroughly enjoyed this one. This is a series that deserves to be better known.

Bone Silence – Book 3 of the Revenger series by Alastair Reynolds
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 . . .

This was quite a gritty, creepy read that took some of the established tropes for this sub-genre – and twisted them into something completely different. Enjoyable and unpredictable.

Crownbreaker – Book 6 of the Spellslinger series by Sebatien de Castell
Kellen and Reichis are settling into their new lives as protectors of the young queen and dealing with the constantly shifting threats to her reign and to her life. For the first time in his life, Kellen feels as if he’s becoming the kind of man that his mentor Ferius had wanted him to be. Even Reichis has come to appreciate having a noble purpose – so long as no one minds him committing the occasional act of theft from the royal treasury. But what seems to be a simple card game between Kellen and an old man is soon revealed to be a deadly game of wits in which a powerful mage has trapped the queen’s spellslinger in order to kill him.

I really enjoyed this series. Kellen is an engaging protagonist and his relationship with the savage little squirrel cat, Reichis, prevented the tone getting too darkly dismal, despite the stakes being raised ever higher.


Sacred Bride – Book 3 of the Olympus trilogy by David Hair & Cath Mayo
Prince Odysseus and the daemon Bria must penetrate the haunted caverns beneath Dodona, seeking a way to save their doomed nation, Achaea, from the might of Troy.
The startling revelation that follows will set Odysseus on his most daunting mission yet, as he seeks to reunite the divided Achaean kingdoms before the rapacious Trojans strike. His journey will pit him against wrathful gods and legendary heroes, in a deadly contest for the hand of Helen of Sparta, the daughter of Zeus, upon whose choice the fate of Achaea rests…

I am a real sucker for Greek myth retellings and 2019 was an outstanding year for this genre, what with this series and Madeline Miller’s wonderful tales. So it was a real treat to revisit this world to complete the series, which is highly recommended for fans of this sub-genre.

The Last Emperox – Book 3 of the Interdependency series
The collapse of The Flow, the interstellar pathway between the planets of the Interdependency, has accelerated. Entire star systems—and billions of people—are becoming cut off from the rest of human civilization. This collapse was foretold through scientific prediction… and yet, even as the evidence is obvious and insurmountable, many still try to rationalize, delay and profit from, these final days of one of the greatest empires humanity has ever known. Emperox Grayland II has finally wrested control of her empire from those who oppose her and who deny the reality of this collapse. But “control” is a slippery thing, and even as Grayland strives to save as many of her people from impoverished isolation, the forces opposing her rule will make a final, desperate push to topple her from her throne and power, by any means necessary. Grayland and her thinning list of allies must use every tool at their disposal to save themselves, and all of humanity. And yet it may not be enough. Will Grayland become the savior of her civilization… or the last emperox to wear the crown?

I thoroughly enjoyed this unusual space opera adventure – but I did find the ending jarring. And as time goes by, my feeling about it haven’t grown any less raw, which is unusual. I’m not going to claim that Scalzi short-changed his readers, because I don’t think he did – but he came mightily close…

The Empire of Gold – Book 3 of the Daevabad trilogy by S.A. Chakrobarty
Daevabad has fallen.
After a brutal conquest stripped the city of its magic, Nahid leader Banu Manizheh and her resurrected commander, Dara, must try to repair their fraying alliance and stabilize a fractious, warring people. But the bloodletting and loss of his beloved Nahri have unleashed the worst demons of Dara’s dark past. To vanquish them, he must face some ugly truths about his history and put himself at the mercy of those he once considered enemies.

I’ve such a soft spot for sand and sorcery books – and this series is outstanding. I loved each book and despite the fact that I found Dara’s actions shocking, Chakraborty managed to make me really care for him.

End Game – Book 8 of the Fallen Empire series by Lindsay Buroker
Alisa Marchenko has reunited with her daughter, and even though she hasn’t figured out how to get Jelena to accept Leonidas yet, she dreams of the three of them starting a new life together. They can return the Star Nomad to its original purpose of running freight and staying out of trouble (mostly). Before that can happen, Alisa must fulfill the promise she made to Jelena: that she and her crew will retrieve young Prince Thorian, the boy who has become Jelena’s best friend. But Thorian was kidnapped by the rogue Starseer Tymoteusz, the man who wants to use the Staff of Lore to take over the entire system—and the man who may have the power to do it. Alisa doesn’t know why he kidnapped Thorian, but Tymoteusz once promised to kill the prince, so she fears they don’t have much time. Unfortunately, Tymoteusz hasn’t left a trail of breadcrumbs. Finding him will be difficult, and even if they’re successful, facing him could be suicidal. To have a chance of surviving, Alisa will have to come up with her greatest scheme yet.

This was so much fun! I loved that the dynamic with this entertaining space opera adventure was a desperate mother looking for her kidnapped daughter. But while that may sound rather bleak – this was nothing of the sort. Full of battles and all sorts of exciting action, including blowing up illegal laboratories and hunting savage dinosaurs – I completed this one with a real sense of loss.

It was one of my targets for 2020 to roll up my sleeves and complete more of the ongoing series I’ve been reading. Though I rather lost my head and requested faaar too many new shiny arcs during March and April, which derailed my good intentions, somewhat. However, I’m reasonably happy that I’ve managed to finish seven series so far. Have you read any of these?









*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The House on Widow’s Hill – Book 9 of the Ishmael Jones mysteries by Simon R. Green #BrainfluffNetgalleybookreview #TheHouseonWidowsHillbookreview

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Anyone who has followed my blog will know that this series is a solid favourite – see my reviews of The Dark Side of the Road, Till Sudden Death Do Us Part, Murder in the Dark, Into the Thinnest of Air, Death Shall Come, Very Important Corpses and Night Train to Murder. So I was delighted to see this latest addition to this paranormal murder mystery series.

BLURB: “That house is a bad place. Bad things happen there . . .”
Set high on top of Widows Hill, Harrow House has remained empty for years. Now, on behalf of an anonymous prospective buyer, Ishmael and Penny are spending a night there in order to investigate the rumours of strange lights, mysterious voices, unexplained disappearances, and establish whether the house is really haunted. What really happened at Harrow House all those years ago? Joined by a celebrity psychic, a professional ghost-hunter, a local historian and a newspaper reporter, it becomes clear that each member of ‘Team Ghost’ has their own pet theory as to the cause of the alleged haunting.


REVIEW: As ever, we have our usual fix of creepy shenanigans going on, as Ishmael and Penny find themselves spending the night in a haunted house. This book follows directly on from Night Train to Murder, so if you haven’t read that one, do be aware – especially at the beginning – there will be some references to events outside the story. I was interested to see this one build more slowly than usual, but given that Green does it well and I know and trust his pacing, I appreciated the general ratcheting up of the tension. It doesn’t hurt that there are the usual dollops of humour that help lighten the tension in the dark, brooding house.

Though the death and denouement rather knocked me for six. I’m still pondering as to whether Green has managed to pull this one off, as it stretched the bounds of my credulity rather. However, I think on balance, I’ll give him a pass. I certainly was never in any danger of putting the book down before getting to the end. All in all, this is an entertaining, page-turning addition to this quirky series.

Recommended for fans of paranormal murder mysteries that doesn’t take itself too seriously. While I obtained an arc of The House of Widow’s Hill from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10


Sunday Post – 7th June, 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.

Apologies for the grotty appearance of this post. Unless I pay £147 a year, I can no longer use WordPress Classic editor. I am exploring other options, as having to struggle to this degree to get even this unsatisfactory result isn’t feasible – I’ve better things to do with my time…

We’re now into flaming June and our summer weather has abruptly departed. I would be happy to report that we’ve got rain – we haven’t. Gale force winds are savaging the garden and drying it out still further. Oh well.

It has been a busy week as I have been getting Picky Eaters ready to see the light of day – and I’m thrilled at the wonderful cover my mate Mhairi Simpson has produced. Many thanks to her for donating her time to this project. Other than that, more editing and working on Mantivore Warrior. Tonight there is another Zoom family gamesnight which we’re looking forward to joining – hopefully I won’t be smitten with another headache!

Last week I read:

The Obsidian Tower – Book 1 of the Rooks and Ruin series by Melissa Caruso
The mage-marked granddaughter of a ruler of Vaskandar, Ryx was destined for power and prestige at the top of Vaskandran society. But her magic is broken; all she can do is uncontrollably drain the life from everything she touches, and Vaskandar has no place for a mage with unusable powers. Then, one night, two terrible accidents befall Ryx, bringing far too much unwanted attention to this small, but strategically vital country – all centred on an ominous ancient tower in the heart of her family’s castle…
I loved the Swords and Fire series – see my review of The Defiant Mage and found the unfolding situation at the start of this gripping tale immediately pulled me into the story. A great start to this spinoff series.

AUDIOBOOK The Naturalist – Book 1 of The Naturalist series by Andrew Mayne
Professor Theo Cray is trained to see patterns where others see chaos. So when mutilated bodies found deep in the Montana woods leave the cops searching blindly for clues, Theo sees something they missed. Something unnatural. Something only he can stop. As a computational biologist, Theo is more familiar with digital code and microbes than the dark arts of forensic sleuthing. But a field trip to Montana suddenly lands him in the middle of an investigation into the bloody killing of one of his former students.
This was great fun – though there were various plot holes large enough to haul a grizzly through, it was well narrated and I really liked Theo Cray, so was happy to go along for the ride.

Hostile Takeover – Book 1 of the Vale Investigation series by Cristelle Comby
PI Bellamy Vale’s near-immortality doesn’t give him a moment to rest. Completely worn down as Death’s supernatural detective, he’s starting to think he got the short-end of his do-or-die deal. So when a string of savage attacks grip the city, Vale abandons all hope of sleep and sets out to discover who let the Otherworld beast free…
This was an intriguing dynamic, where poor old Bell finds himself indentured to Lady McDeath, who sends him to sort out the most dangerous and messy tasks popping up around Cold City. I’m glad I have the second book on my Kindle, ready to read when I get the time. Review to follow.

The House on Widows Hill – Book 9 of the Ishmael Jones mysteries by Simon R. Green
Set high on top of Widows Hill, Harrow House has remained empty for years. Now, on behalf of an anonymous prospective buyer, Ishmael and Penny are spending a night there in order to investigate the rumours of strange lights, mysterious voices, unexplained disappearances, and establish whether the house is really haunted. What really happened at Harrow House all those years ago? Joined by a celebrity psychic, a professional ghost-hunter, a local historian and a newspaper reporter, it becomes clear that each member of ‘Team Ghost’ has their own pet theory as to the cause of the alleged haunting.
Yet another quirky paranormal murder mystery – it’s been something of a theme this week – I enjoyed this addition to this entertaining series and will be reviewing it in due course.


My posts last week:

PICKY EATERS – Cover reveal

Friday Face-off featuring Searching for Dragons – Book 2 of the Enchanted Forest series by Patricia C. Wrede

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Obsidian Tower – Book 1 of the Rooks and Ruin series by Melissa Caruso

Can’t-Wait-Wednesday featuring The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson

May 2020 Roundup – Reading, Writing and Blogging…

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL * Review of The Clutter Corpse – Book 1 of The Decluttering Mysteries by Simon Brett

Sunday Post – 31st May 2020


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

Tips to Photograph Bees https://wanderingambivert.com/2020/06/03/tips-to-photograph-bees/ Given that a lot of us are still in lockdown, wandering around the garden, or going for walks might give you the opportunity to take a pic of bees, here is some advice on how to do it well…

A Teacher’s Story #1 https://jenniefitzkee.com/2020/06/03/a-teachers-story-1/ What an inspirational tale…

Talking with Kids about Racism https://platformnumber4.com/2020/05/30/talking-with-kids-about-racism/ Many thanks to Becky for posting this really useful resource. I very highly recommend the article ‘What White Children Need to Know About Race’…

The Last Video Store on Earth https://sciencefictionruminations.com/2020/06/04/guest-post-the-last-video-store-on-earth/ I loved this article…

Kvetch – 22 https://thestoryreadingapeblog.com/2020/06/03/kvetch-22/ And if you’re in need of a laugh, or two…

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

Review of INDIE Ebook The Zero Curse – Book 2 of The Zero Enigma by Christopher G. Nuttall #Brainfluffbookreview #TheZeroEnigmabookreview #Wyrd and Wonder 2020

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I was looking for something entertaining and escapist, given the current situation, so was delighted to find this one nestling in my TBR, as I particularly enjoyed the first book – see my review of The Zero Blessing. I enjoy Nuttall’s writing as his space opera adventure The Hyperspace Trap made my list of Outstanding Reads of 2018. I am linking this review to Wyrd and Wonder 2020.

BLURB: 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 thoroughly enjoy well-told fantasy school adventures and Nuttall’s first book in this series, The Zero Blessing, was an excellent start. If you haven’t yet read it, I recommend you go back and pick that one up before going any further, as there is a chunk of important backstory you’re missing. Caitlyn won’t make much sense to you if you don’t do so… Given the major twist at the end of the first book, I really liked the direction in which this one went – compared to the Molly Harper series, I think the sudden change in the dynamic is far more adroitly handled here.

While I wasn’t completely surprised when the shoe dropped and the stakes were abruptly raised, but I was impressed and gripped by the way the adventure then got a whole lot darker. I’m aware Nuttall is capable of killing off important supporting characters, so was on my toes throughout. As ever, I found it difficult to put this one down until it was over. I will definitely be continuing with this series during the year. He is an accomplished author, whose books are excellent value and this one is highly recommended for fans of exciting magical school adventures.

9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Ebook NOVELLA The Physicians of Vilnoc – Book 8 of the Penric and Desdemona series by Lois McMaster Bujold #Brainfluffbookreview #ThePhysiciansofVilnocbookreview #WyrdandWonder2020

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We are both huge fans of this accomplished, game-changing author, whose Miles Vorkosigan series took a physically disabled character in the far future and redefined what could be done with space opera – see my review of Cryoburn. We have been delighted all over again by her talent in this delightful series of fantasy novellas, set in her World of the Five Gods series, and have followed Penric’s adventures – see my reviews of Penric’s Demon, Penric and the Shaman, Penric’s Mission, Mira’s Last Dance, Penric’s Fox, The Prisoner of Limnos, and The Orphans of Raspay. You’ll notice that my ratings are consistently high and quite right, too. So we were thrilled to hear Bujold was bringing out a new book during lockdown that was guaranteed to sweep us away from the current misery surrounding us, and into another world… Or is it? I have linked this review to the Wyrd and Wonder 2020 event.

BLURB: When a mysterious plague breaks out in the army fort guarding Vilnoc, the port capital of the duchy of Orbas, Temple sorcerer Penric and his demon Desdemona are called upon by General Arisaydia to resurrect Penric’s medical skills and solve its lethal riddle. In the grueling days that follow, Pen will find that even his magic is not enough to meet the challenges without help from dedicated new colleagues—and the god of mischance.

Yes… it’s all about a mysterious plague! Apparently Bujold was working on this late last year and into the early part of the new year. I was a bit concerned that it would be too close to home – but I decided to make a start on it and if I found the storyline was all about social distancing and quarantining, I could always DNF it and wait until this crisis passed. In the event, I was immediately pulled into the story by dear old Penric, whom I LOVE and didn’t stop reading until I was finished.

I would suggest that if for some reason, you have encountered this offering without having read any of the other books, do at least take the time to get hold of Penric’s Demon. The original adventure sets up the lovely premise running through this series, and while I’d suggest you then work your way through the rest of the novellas on the grounds that it seems a real shame not to read such a cracking series in the right order, you certainly won’t flounder too much. Bujold is far too accomplished a writer for that to happen – and the manner in which she has nailed the novella form proves it. The pages simply turned themselves…

I had been initially concerned that the final scenes of this book would prove unsatisfactory, as like everyone else these days, I know far too much about what a tricky business it is to come out of an epidemic. But I hadn’t taken into account that Bujold knows her way around medical matters sufficiently well to bring the whole crisis to a satisfactory conclusion, including a couple of really nice touches along the way. As ever, a cracking read from one of our most talented SFF authors alive today. Highly recommended for anyone with a pulse, who enjoys an engrossing story that won’t take up a huge slice of life to get through it.
10/10

Friday Faceoff – Confidence is an armour you cannot buy… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoffarmourcovers

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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 ARMOUR. I’ve selected The Fell Sword – Book 2 of the Traitor Son Cycle by Miles Cameron, see my review.


This offering was produced by Gollancz in June 2014. It’s stripped right back in a really interesting way – no castle or mountain in the background to distract, just that beautifully etched design. Which means all our attention is on the armoured knight fighting for his life against a terrifying monster with too much beak and claws. Look at the fabulous feathers that pick up the colour in the title font… There are some lovely details in this one, including that slightly uneven border, which shows  the thought that has gone into this one. As a result, it is really eye-catching. I also like the font, which manages to evoke the genre and historical period, without becoming impossible to read. Altogether, it’s a classy effort and my favourite.

 

Published in March 2014 by Orbi, this cover is almost the complete opposite of the previous one in approach. Instead of zooming out to show us the whole battle, we get a real close-up – to the extent that we can see the dents in the armour. We’ve no idea what this knight is fighting – indeed, we don’t even get to see the whole figure. That is left to our imagination. I really like it, too. And I especially approve of the treatment given to the title and author fonts, limned in electric blue lightning, as if struck by magic. It’s nicely done and brightens up what could have been a rather dark cover.


This French edition, published in August 2014 by Bragelonne, is another classy design. It has taken the same approach as the Orbit designers, going for the close-up – this time we get a shot of the knight’s helm carried in his arm – note the blood spatter… The same electric blue lighting is used, this time as a backdrop to the main figure, rather than to highlight the title and author fonts. While I like the treatment, particularly of the title, my one niggle is that it is too small for the scale of the cover.

 

This German edition, published in September 2014 by Heyne has grown on me. Initially, I thought it rather underwhelming in comparison with the previous offerings – but the more I see of it, the more I like it. The blue colouring, more intense towards the edges and fading to a brighter shade in the middle is both attractive and effective at drawing our eyes to the centre of the cover, where the etched outline of a heraldic device is traced, with a dragon helm right in the middle of it. And the slight smudging of the author name and title is really effective.

 

This Russian edition, published by Фантастика Книжный Клуб in October 2019, is in effect, the Gollancz cover flipped around, so we see more of the back of the creature as he faces down the knight. For some reason best known to himself, this chap sees fit to fight without his helm on, and wearing a cloak. He clearly hasn’t read the memo about how lethal cloaks can be in combat – and what happens if a claw gets pass your defence and rakes your face. While I do like it, I’m not quite as keen on it as I am the first cover, due to the daft decisions by the knight. Which is your favourite?