Category Archives: child protagonist

Sunday Post – 27th September, 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.

I am still struggling with my energy levels – it feels as though I’m wading through treacle. So it’s been a quiet week, other than a meeting on Friday with Sally and Tim to discuss his upcoming year. He has worked on an impressive number of projects since Lockdown started and it was lovely seeing him. I’m looking forward to teaching him again.

The photos this week are from our 25th Wedding Anniversary visit to the Ashdown Forest, when we got lost. I look that the bright sunshine with wistful yearning. The second half of the week has turned really chilly with a biting northerly blowing and I want the warm weather back!


Last week I read:

The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton
A murder on the high seas. A detective duo. A demon who may or may not exist.

It’s 1634 and Samuel Pipps, the world’s greatest detective, is being transported to Amsterdam to be executed for a crime he may, or may not, have committed. Travelling with him is his loyal bodyguard, Arent Hayes, who is determined to prove his friend innocent. But no sooner are they out to sea than devilry begins to blight the voyage…
This is a cracking historical murder mystery and I particularly enjoyed the denouement, which was extremely well done. Review to follow.


AUDIOBOOK Lies Sleeping – Book 7 of the Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch
Martin Chorley, aka the Faceless Man, wanted for multiple counts of murder, fraud, and crimes against humanity, has been unmasked and is on the run. Peter Grant, Detective Constable and apprentice wizard, now plays a key role in an unprecedented joint operation to bring Chorley to justice.

But even as the unwieldy might of the Metropolitan Police bears down on its foe, Peter uncovers clues that Chorley, far from being finished, is executing the final stages of a long term plan. A plan that has its roots in London’s two thousand bloody years of history, and could literally bring the city to its knees.
It’s been a while since I read any books in this series – but I loved the fabulous narration by Kobna Holbrook-Smith, who did a stunning job in bringing Peter Grant to life. Review to follow.


Unconquerable Sun – Book 1 of The Sun Chronicles by Kate Elliott
GENDER-SWAPPED ALEXANDER THE GREAT ON AN INTERSTELLAR SCALE

Princess Sun has finally come of age. Growing up in the shadow of her mother, Eirene, has been no easy task. The legendary queen-marshal did what everyone thought impossible: expel the invaders and build Chaonia into a magnificent republic, one to be respected—and feared.

But the cutthroat ambassador corps and conniving noble houses have never ceased to scheme—and they have plans that need Sun to be removed as heir, or better yet, dead. To survive, the princess must rely on her wits and companions: her biggest rival, her secret lover, and a dangerous prisoner of war.
I loved this one! Elliott’s gift for producing compelling characters and intriguing worlds worked really well. There are also a couple of cracking battle scenes, too… Review to follow.

AUDIOBOOK Eating Things on Sticks by Anne Fine
Harry is in trouble. He’s burned down the family kitchen so now has to spend a week of his summer hols with his uncle Tristram – who’s heading off to stay with a new girlfriend – Morning Glory – on a tiny British island.

Harry doesn’t expect it to be a lot of fun – with just a wacky competition at the end of the week to look forward to. He certainly didn’t expect to discover all the beards. Or the angel on the mountain. Or the helicopters circling overhead all week. And he definitely didn’t think it would be so wet . . .
This is yet another gem from Frank’s Audible backlist – I absolutely loved it and was definitely in the mood for the quirky humour and series of mishaps that follow Harry and Uncle Tristram. Review to follow.


My posts last week:

Castellan the Black and His Wise Draconic Tips on a Mid-Life Crisis

Déjà vu review of The Crossing Places – Book 1 of the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths

Friday Faceoff featuring Just One Damned Thing After Another – Book 1 of the Chronicles of St Mary’s by Jodi Taylor

Cover Love featuring the covers of Phil Williams

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Dead Man in a Ditch – Book 2 of Fetch Phillips Archives by Luke Arnold

Can’t-Wait-Wednesday featuring The Post-Script Murders – Book 2 of the Harbinder Kaur series by Elly Griffiths

Tuesday Treasures – 14

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Kept From Cages – Book 1 of the Ikiri series by Phil Williams

Two Murder Mystery Mini-reviews: Salt Lane and The Outcast Dead

Sunday Post – 20th September 2020


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

Managing Expectations, One Book at a Time https://writerunboxed.com/2020/09/24/managing-expectations-one-book-at-a-time/ While this is aimed at writers, I also think is something that is something that readers should consider. That famous second-book slump might also be partly caused by our feverish anticipation to be transported back to that surprising, new place we’d discovered – only to find the excited expectation leads to disappointment…

Thursday Doors – Castle Archdale Part One https://jeanreinhardt.wordpress.com/2020/09/24/thursday-doors-castle-archdale-part-one/ It’s wonderful to be transported back in time once more, courtesy of Jean’s particular magic – I do love these articles!

Mini Book Tag Week: Opposite Book Tag https://zezeewithbooks.wordpress.com/2020/09/24/mini-book-tag-week-opposite-book-tag/ I haven’t taken part in this one – but it looks such fun…

25 Book Blog Ideas Volume I https://www.randomredheadedramblings.com/2020/09/25-book-blog-post-ideas-volume-1.html?spref=tw There are fabulous suggestions here if you are looking for ways to liven up your content – I’ve taken notes. Thank you, Heather!

Life After Death https://wandaluthman.wordpress.com/2020/09/21/lifef-after-death/ A beautiful, brave article…

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

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Mother Code by Carol Stivers #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #TheMotherCodebookreview

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I put this one down feeling rather conflicted. It’s an ambitious book in its scope, as Stivers attempts to take the classic apocalyptic lethal plague scenario and give it an interesting twist.

BLURB: The year is 2049. When a deadly non-viral agent intended for biowarfare spreads out of control, scientists must scramble to ensure the survival of the human race. They turn to their last resort, a plan to place genetically engineered children inside the cocoons of large-scale robots–to be incubated, birthed, and raised by machines. But there is yet one hope of preserving the human order–an intelligence programmed into these machines that renders each unique in its own right–the Mother Code.

Kai is born in America’s desert southwest, his only companion his robot Mother, Rho-Z. Equipped with the knowledge and motivations of a human mother, Rho-Z raises Kai and teaches him how to survive. But as children like Kai come of age, their Mothers transform too–in ways that were never predicted. When government survivors decide that the Mothers must be destroyed, Kai must make a choice. Will he break the bond he shares with Rho-Z? Or will he fight to save the only parent he has ever known?

REVIEW: After I started reading this one, I discovered that Stivers is a scientist – which is evident by all the techy details she became engrossed in, which as far as I was concerned, slightly held up the pace. This book isn’t presented as a hard sci fi read – and the fact that a lot of the science surfaced at several crucial points, where the pacing should have been increasing didn’t help my bonding with the main characters.
I think this book had the potential to be a truly great read – but Stivers hasn’t quite pulled it off and that is because the story can’t make up its mind what it’s trying to do. It could have been a quirky, hard sci fi adventure about how saving the species got messed up from the viewpoint of the key scientists as the survivors desperately try to outwit the lethal robots protecting them. Or it could have been a gritted survival adventure from the viewpoint of the children battling to stay alive in the desert, accompanied by their robotic mothers. But what Stivers tried to do was straddle both stories and the result is a bit of a hot mess, particularly by the end.

I found it a rather frustrating read, because just as I was starting to care about one of the characters, the viewpoint shifted yet again, which meant that I didn’t bond with anyone in the book, though I came close to caring about poor little Kai and James Said. It didn’t help that I’m not a fan of the apocalyptic scenario where there is a steady attrition of main characters, but in fairness to me – this one wasn’t marketed as that kind of book. It’s a shame, because Stivers isn’t a bad writer and if only she’d had an editor who had given her more clarity as to what she really wanted to do with this story, it could have been awesome. Apparently, Stephen Spielberg has bought the rights to the story, and I’ll be interested to see if he’ll tell the more interesting, quirkier story – or turn it into a Hollywood cliché.

Recommended for fans who enjoy their apocalyptic adventures with a dollop of hard sci fi. The ebook arc copy of The Mother Code was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
7/10

Review of AUDIOBOOK The Last Olympian – Book 5 of Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan #Brainfluffaudiobookreview #TheLastOlympianaudiobookreview

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I have been listening to this series throughout 2019 and thoroughly enjoying this modern take on the Greek myths from the perspective of a dyslexic demi-god, who is aged twelve when the series starts with Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief.

BLURB: All year the half-bloods have been preparing for battle against the Titans, knowing the odds of a victory are grim. Kronos’s army is stronger than ever, and with every god and half-blood he recruits, the evil Titan’s power only grows. While the Olympians struggle to contain the rampaging monster Typhon, Kronos begins his advance on New York City, where Mount Olympus stands virtually unguarded. Now it’s up to Percy Jackson and an army of young demigods to stop the Lord of Time.

REVIEW: If you’re thinking there seems to be some striking similarities to Harry Potter, another magical youngster, you’d be right – there are. But there are also some important differences. Riordan’s stitching of Percy’s rather fractured family life and learning difficulties onto the ancient Greek myths is the vital ingredient that lifts this series into something really special. I think it’s been done very well, so that now Percy is approaching his sixteenth birthday, which is surrounded by a particularly doom-laden prophesy, just as the gods and titans are set for a bloody rematch of their first apocalyptic battle – you’ll realise the stakes couldn’t be higher. Whatever you do, don’t plunge into this book without reading at least the previous two first, although ideally you’d go back to the beginning, as there is a linked narrative running across the books. While each story encapsulates a single adventure, there is an ongoing progression all leading towards this, the final book.

This means the scene-setting and battles all have to be sufficiently climactic and engrossing to satisfy the reader’s raised expectations, or this series will end with a whimper, rather than a bang. Riordan triumphantly achieves this by writing a series of fabulous battles in Manhattan, not just featuring Percy, but also satisfactorily concluding the narrative arcs of all the main cast that have accompanied Percy on his journey. In amongst the mayhem and desperate fighting, with inevitable losses and heartbreak, there are a steady stream of sardonic asides that provide welcome shafts of humour throughout.

As this falls somewhere between a children’s and YA read, there is also a bit of romance, which has been bubbling away in the background through the previous two books, in particular. There were two girls Percy was attracted to – not that he did all that much about it, so thank goodness we have no dreaded love triangle. I find it endearing that our skilled swordsman turns into a clammy mess in the presence of the girls in his life… Needless to say, that strand is also wrapped up. Overall, this is a really strong conclusion to an entertaining series that also teaches a fair bit about the ancient Greek gods along the way. Highly recommended for children of all ages.
9/10


Sunday Post – 9th August, 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 hot and sunny – particularly the last few days. I love it, but Himself is suffering, as he far prefers the cold. We had the grandchildren stay over on Wednesday and Thursday this week – a treat as Himself was also off. So we took them to the big wheel in the middle of Worthing on Wednesday morning. It was a perfect day to be right up high, with sea views on one side and a clear view of the town on the other. We then went shopping at our local Waterstones, before heading back home. On Thursday, we visited the Wetland and Wildlife Trust in Arundel, one of our favourite places – though this was the first time we’d been since before the lockdown.

It was blisteringly hot on Thursday, but we found it magical with far less people than normal during the summer holidays. The reedbeds in particular were beautiful and peacefu – and we also watched a swarm of bees starting to congregate in the Butterfly garden. We also enjoyed an ice cream sitting in the shade – yay for vegan Magnums! Other than the wheel – this is where the pics were taken.

In the meantime, I’ve been getting Mantivore Warrior fit to face the world, as I’m releasing the book on 31st August. While it is the third book in The Arcadian Chronicles, it is also a good place to jump in, as it features a protagonist whose experiences are utterly different from those of the beleaguered young woman who was at the heart of the story in Mantivore Dreams and Mantivore Prey. If anyone is interested in getting hold of an arc, do drop me a line…


Last week I read:
The Mother Code by Carol Stivers
The year is 2049. When a deadly non-viral agent intended for biowarfare spreads out of control, scientists must scramble to ensure the survival of the human race. They turn to their last resort, a plan to place genetically engineered children inside the cocoons of large-scale robots–to be incubated, birthed, and raised by machines. But there is yet one hope of preserving the human order–an intelligence programmed into these machines that renders each unique in its own right–the Mother Code.

Kai is born in America’s desert southwest, his only companion his robot Mother, Rho-Z. Equipped with the knowledge and motivations of a human mother, Rho-Z raises Kai and teaches him how to survive. But as children like Kai come of age, their Mothers transform too–in ways that were never predicted. When government survivors decide that the Mothers must be destroyed, Kai must make a choice. Will he break the bond he shares with Rho-Z? Or will he fight to save the only parent he has ever known?
I enjoyed this one – but it could have been so much better, if Stivers had been a bit more focused on exactly whose story she wanted to tell, rather than trying to do it all… Review to follow.


AUDIOBOOK Finding the Fox – Book 1 of The Shapeshifter series by Ali Sparkes
Dax Jones is an ordinary schoolboy – until something extraordinary happens one day. Whilst frightened for his life, he inexplicably changes into a fox. Before long, both a government agent and an ambitious young journalist are on his tail.
I love this author’s writing – and this shapeshifting adventure didn’t disappoint. Very highly recommended for youngsters between the ages of 9-12. Review to follow.

The Last Astronaut by David Wellington
Sally Jansen was NASA’s leading astronaut, until a mission to Mars ended in disaster. Haunted by her failure, she lives in quiet anonymity, convinced her days in space are over.
She’s wrong. A large alien object has entered the solar system on a straight course toward Earth. It has made no attempt to communicate and is ignoring all incoming transmissions.
Out of time and out of options, NASA turns to Jansen. For all the dangers of the mission, it’s the shot at redemption she always longed for.
If I’d known that Wellington wrote horror, then I probably would have given this one a miss – which would have been a shame, because it was a real treat. He manages to deliver after the long, tense build-up, producing aliens that are genuinely different and terrifying. And the ending is brilliantly handled. Review to follow.

Deadly Waters by Dot Hutchison
Florida journalism undergrad Rebecca Sorley is like any other college student. She tries to keep up with her studies, her friends, and her hot-tempered roommate, Ellie, who regularly courts trouble with the law.
When a male student’s remains are found in alligator-infested waters, the university warns students to stay away from the reptiles. But then a second body shows up, and the link is undeniable. Both men belonged to the same fraternity and had a reputation for preying on and hurting women.
Ellie has previously threatened to kill men who don’t take no for an answer. Rebecca and her friends thought Ellie was kidding. But now a vigilante killer is roaming campus—someone who knows how to dispose of rapists. Someone determined to save female students from horrible crimes.
I thoroughly enjoyed this one, where the rising body count wasn’t a stack of attractive young women – but young men who were sexual predators. The plotting is well done and this one was a memorable page-turner. Review to follow.

The Ghost Fields – Book 7 of the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths
Norfolk is experiencing a July heatwave when a construction crew unearths a macabre discovery – a buried WWII plane with the pilot still inside. Forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway quickly realizes that the skeleton couldn’t possibly be the pilot, and DNA tests identify the man as Fred Blackstock, a local aristocrat who had been reported dead at sea. When the remaining members of the Blackstock family learn about the discovery, they seem strangely frightened by the news…
I’m really enjoying this series – as much for the unfolding stories of the supporting cast, as for the actual crime dramas that are featured. Ruth’s growing confidence and watching her struggles as a single mother holding down a demanding job gives these books extra readability. Mini-review to follow.

My posts last week:

Castellan the Black and His Wise Draconic Musings

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Ghost Ups Her Game by Carolyn Hart

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson

Friday Face-off featuring The Line of Polity – Book 2 of the Agent Cormac series by Neal Asher

July 2020 Rounding: Reading, Writing and Blogging…

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Seven Devils – Book 1 of the Seven Devils series by Laura Lam and Elizabeth May

Can’t-Wait-Wednesday featuring Deadly Waters by Dot Hutchison

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Doors of Eden by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Tuesday Treasures – 7

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Feature article on Miracle in Slow Motion by Sally Wagter

Sunday Post – 2nd August 2020


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

The Green Man’s Silence – where did these particular ideas come from? http://www.julietemckenna.com/?p=3208 I’ve loved the unique blend of urban fantasy and old English folk tales in this particular series – so I’m fascinated by how McKenna mixes up the influences…

PICKY EATERS by S.J. Higbee. A review https://powerfulwomenreaders.wordpress.com/2020/08/07/picky-eaters-by-s-j-higbee-a-review/ It’s always a treat when a readers gets in touch to say how much they enjoyed the book – even more so when they take the trouble to share their views with others…

Some Like It Hot https://yadadarcyyada.com/2020/06/14/some-like-it-hot/ Donna’s quirky blog is always worth a visit – especially if you’re looking for a laugh…

The TBR Tag https://spaceandsorcery.wordpress.com/2020/08/05/the-tbr-tag/ I always enjoy reading book tag articles – and this one is particularly entertaining…

A Short Analysis of Wilfred Owen’s ‘The Next War’ https://interestingliterature.com/2020/08/a-short-analysis-of-wilfred-owens-the-next-war/ Once again, this excellent site delivers the goods…

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

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Sin Eater by Megan Campisi #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #TheSinEaterbookreview

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It was the cover that did it for me with this one – isn’t it sumptuous? I’ve also recently been enjoying my SFF with a serving of history in some form. So I requested this one and was delighted when I received the arc.

BLURB: Can you uncover the truth when you’re forbidden from speaking it?

A Sin Eater’s duty is a necessary evil: she hears the final private confessions of the dying, eats their sins as a funeral rite, and so guarantees their souls access to heaven. It is always women who eat sins – since it was Eve who first ate the Forbidden Fruit – and every town has at least one, not that they are publicly acknowledged. Stained by the sins they are obliged to consume, the Sin Eater is shunned and silenced, doomed to live in exile at the edge of town. Recently orphaned May Owens is just fourteen, and has never considered what it might be like to be so ostracized; she’s more concerned with where her next meal is coming from. When she’s arrested for stealing a loaf of bread, however, and subsequently sentenced to become a Sin Eater, finding food is suddenly the last of her worries.

REVIEW: It took me a while to really get into this one, chiefly because I was slightly irritated at the sheer thinness of the disguise regarding the world. The names of the kings and queens were very nearly taken from the Tudor dynasty and the religious turmoil was depicted, but with different names. The Old King even had six wives… I found it distracting and a tad annoying that this fantasy version followed the actual world so very closely – but the town where May lives didn’t feel large or sufficiently varied to be the London of Elizabeth I. The court didn’t feel right, either.

However, as I continued reading and became more emotionally invested in May and engrossed in the story, I ceased minding so much. I have, however, knocked a point off because it initially did affect my pleasure and the speed with which I became invested in the story. That said, once I got over my issues with the scene setting, I really cared about May and really enjoyed her progression through the story. She starts out as a half-starved waif, still reeling from the death of her father, and then finds herself in a terrible situation – that of a Sin Eater. I was aware of the custom, but Campisi makes it far more widespread than it actually was, by also having specific foodstuffs representing particular sins, which is something May has to learn. I also enjoyed how Campisi tweaked several old nursery rhymes to allude to rite of sin-eating.

The distressing aspect of becoming a Sin Eater is how ostracised May becomes. No one will look at her, speak to hear or touch her. She is treated as a leper. Campisi deals well with May’s shock and sense of loss very well, and as we see her start to become acclimatised to her new status, I also appreciated her innate gutsy outlook and instinct for survival. However, despite being a social outcast, the Sin Eater also has access to the best houses in the land, once someone is dying or has died. And May discovers this is a very mixed blessing when that access means she becomes inadvertently caught up in a high-level plot.

Throughout the book, she is constantly trying to work out whether she is a pious, upstanding young woman her father would be proud of – or essentially wicked like her mother’s family. How should she cope with the temptations that come her way? I really appreciated that Campisi gave May the opportunity to tussle over these questions – because it is exactly what would have occupied a girl in the 16th century, who would have been very concerned about the state of her soul and whether she would suffer the agonies of everlasting fire, or at last find her way to heaven.

In amongst the steady growth of May’s confidence in her way of life, there is also that plot concerning the Queen’s attendants. I did know of the stories that this alludes to, though I think it was well handled and provided a climactic and suitably dramatic ending to what proved to be a thoroughly enjoyable and gripping read. While I obtained an arc of The Sin Eater from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10










Friday Faceoff – We lose ourselves in books, we find ourselves there too… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoffholidinganobjectcovers

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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 depicting someone HOLDING AN OBJECT – and of course what could be better than holding a book? I’ve selected The Book Thief by Markus Zusak…

Alfred A. Knopf 2006

This edition was produced by Alfred A. Knopf in March 2006 and is the first US hardcover edition. You’re right – it hasn’t got anyone holding anything, but someone is about to knock over the line of dominoes. I don’t much like this cover, which is a shame as it is one of the default covers. The symbol is very generic and rather a cliché, which shortchanges such a remarkable book. Neither do I like the textbox across the top of the cover. It’s not a terrible cover, but it isn’t great, either.

Bodley Head 2007

Published in 2007 by Bodley Head, this cover is quite a different proposition. What an arresting image – a girl reading a book while apparently lying in a crypt, or is it an attic? The rich curtains framing that image being the only splash of colour is a stroke of genius, essentially drawing us into the monochrome picture of young Liesel engrossed in her book. I love how her ankles are crossed, showing she is relaxed while lost within the covers of the story. This one is my favourite.

RAO 2014

This Romanian edition, published by RAO in February 2014, is another version of Liesel, this time staring straight out at us. She is clearly older in this depiction and improbably pretty, clutching a book to her as if it is her only hope as the world explodes behind her. It’s another powerful image and again, is one of the default images for this best-selling book that, according to Goodreads, runs to 331 editions. I like this one more than most of the other offerings – because although she is older, she is still terribly vulnerable and her hair and clothing is right for the period. Reminding me that hundreds and thousands of youngsters of her age must have been equally helpless and frightened as their world got twisted or swept away as Word War II hammered across their lives. This cover is certainly a contender.

Definitions (Young Adult) 2008

This edition, produced by Definitions (Young Adult) in January 2008, has changed the dynamic. The young Liesel reading has been drawn, with Death looming in the background. This is the cover I very, nearly went for. I love the border of flames apparently licking the paper and the uncluttered look. What finally decided me against choosing this one, is the scale. I think Liesel is too small for the size of the cover – and I know it’s probably to underline her vulnerability, but I do think she could have been made just a bit bigger without losing that feeling.

Pocket Jeunesse 2019

This French edition, published by Pocket Jeunesse in March 2019, pares the image right back to the basics. Therefore the details of Liesel’s striped dress, her hairband, her hand on her chin as she eats up the words of the book in her hand really stand out against the coffee-coloured flames with the bombers circling overhead. While I think this image has been very effectively crafted, its apparent cosiness makes me uncomfortable. Though I do love the title font, so reminiscent of the 1930s, and I think the design is successful. Which is your favourite?

The Mid-Year Freak Out Book Tag #Brainfluffbookreview #TheMidYearFreakOutBookTag

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I’ve recently thoroughly enjoyed reading this book tag on a number of sites – but the first one was Maddalena, at Space and Sorcery, one of my favourite book bloggers on account of the steady stream of thoughtful, quality reviews that she produces. So I decided to also join in the fun…

Best Book You’ve Read So Far This Year
Ancestral Night – Book 1 of the White Space series by Elizabeth Bear
Haimey Dz thinks she knows what she wants. She thinks she knows who she is. She is wrong. A routine salvage mission uncovers evidence of a terrible crime and relics of powerful ancient technology. Haimey and her small crew run afoul of pirates at the outer limits of the Milky Way, and find themselves on the run and in possession of universe-changing information.

When authorities prove corrupt, Haimey realizes that she is the only one who can protect her galaxy-spanning civilization from the implications of this ancient technology—and the revolutionaries who want to use it for terror and war. Her quest will take her careening from the event horizon of the supermassive black hole at the galaxy’s core to the infinite, empty spaces at its edge.

I found this layered, character-led exploration of a future human, who relies on technology not available to us in order to keep functional, absolutely riveting.

Best Sequel You’ve Read So Far This Year
Stranger Still – Book 3 of the Strange series by Marilyn Messik
Telepathy, along with sundry other odd abilities, have landed Stella more than once, in situations at best controversial, at worst life-threatening. But she’s always known; you have to fight your own corner as best you can, no point beating yourself up about it.

Now though, times have changed, different priorities. She’s married, with a baby on the way and a flourishing business. She simply has to deal with a couple of worrying issues and then all should be smooth sailing. But, isn’t it a fact; just when you think you’ve got all your ducks in a row, life can turn right around and bite you on the bottom?

This series is an absolute gem. I love the quirky, humorous tone coupled with the often dark, twisty plot. It should be grim and angsty, but it isn’t. Messik is a wonderful writer and definitely my discovery of the year so far…

New Release You Haven’t Read Yet But Want To
Unconquerable Sun – Book 1 of The Sun Chronicles by Kate Elliott
GENDER-SWAPPED ALEXANDER THE GREAT ON AN INTERSTELLAR SCALE
Princess Sun has finally come of age. Growing up in the shadow of her mother, Eirene, has been no easy task. The legendary queen-marshal did what everyone thought impossible: expel the invaders and build Chaonia into a magnificent republic, one to be respected—and feared.

But the cutthroat ambassador corps and conniving noble houses have never ceased to scheme—and they have plans that need Sun to be removed as heir, or better yet, dead. To survive, the princess must rely on her wits and companions: her biggest rival, her secret lover, and a dangerous prisoner of war.

A retelling of Alexander the Great set in space with a princess as the protagonist – with the great Kate Elliott telling the story… It makes me go weak with longing just thinking about it.

Most Anticipated Release For the Second Half of the Year
A Deadly Education – Book 1 of the Scholomance series by Naomi Novik
A Deadly Education is set at Scholomance, a school for the magically gifted where failure means certain death (for real) — until one girl, El, begins to unlock its many secrets. There are no teachers, no holidays, and no friendships, save strategic ones. Survival is more important than any letter grade, for the school won’t allow its students to leave until they graduate… or die! The rules are deceptively simple: Don’t walk the halls alone. And beware of the monsters who lurk everywhere. El is uniquely prepared for the school’s dangers. She may be without allies, but she possesses a dark power strong enough to level mountains and wipe out millions. It would be easy enough for El to defeat the monsters that prowl the school. The problem? Her powerful dark magic might also kill all the other students.
I love a great school story and have read one book from another
cracking series this year – so am really looking forward to tucking into this one.

Biggest Disappointment
Q by Christina Dalcher
Every child’s potential is regularly determined by a standardized measurement: their quotient (Q). Score high enough, and attend a top tier school with a golden future. Score too low, and it’s off to a federal boarding school with limited prospects afterwards. The purpose? An improved society where education costs drop, teachers focus on the more promising students, and parents are happy.

Elena Fairchild is a teacher at one of the state’s elite schools. When her nine-year-old daughter bombs a monthly test and her Q score drops to a disastrously low level, she is immediately forced to leave her top school for a federal institution hundreds of miles away. As a teacher, Elena thought she understood the tiered educational system, but as a mother whose child is now gone, Elena’s perspective is changed forever. She just wants her daughter back.

Elena has to be the nastiest protagonist I’ve encountered this year. I kept reading, because I was convinced that at some stage she was going to redeem herself. She didn’t. Check out my review.

Biggest Surprise
You Let Me In by Camilla Bruce
Cassandra Tipp is dead…or is she? After all, the notorious recluse and eccentric bestselling novelist has always been prone to flights of fancy–everyone in town remembers the shocking events leading up to Cassie’s infamous trial (she may have been acquitted, but the insanity defense only stretches so far).
Cassandra Tipp has left behind no body–just her massive fortune, and one final manuscript.

Then again, there are enough bodies in her past–her husband Tommy Tipp, whose mysterious disembowelment has never been solved, and a few years later, the shocking murder-suicide of her father and brother.

This unsettling tale is both horrific and beautiful and has lodged in my memory since I read it early in the year. Fabulous debut novel that makes this author One To Watch. Here is my review.

Favourite New Author
Marilyn Messik
I just wish she would write faster… I suffered terrible book hangover pangs after completing the Strange series! This is my review of Relatively Strange.

Newest Fictional Crush
Hm. Don’t really like the term crush – I’m a very happily married woman. But I rather fell in love with Trouble Dog from Embers of War by Gareth L. Powell. This sentient ship doesn’t know when to quit…

Newest Favourite Character
Stella from the Strange series by Marilyn Messik. Yes, I know it seems that I’ve only read a handful of books this first half of 2020, given the fact that Messik’s books keep surfacing in this roundup, but I was obsessed by Stella – even dreamt about her… That doesn’t happen all that often, these days.

Book That Made You Cry
The Mirror and the Light – Book 3 of the Thomas Cromwell series by Hilary Mantel
England, May 1536. Anne Boleyn is dead, decapitated in the space of a heartbeat by a hired French executioner. As her remains are bundled into oblivion, Thomas Cromwell breakfasts with the victors. The blacksmith’s son from Putney emerges from the spring’s bloodbath to continue his climb to power and wealth, while his formidable master, Henry VIII, settles to short-lived happiness with his third queen before Jane dies giving birth to the male heir he most craves.

Cromwell is a man with only his wits to rely on; he has no great family to back him, no private army. Despite rebellion at home, traitors plotting abroad and the threat of invasion testing Henry’s regime to the breaking point, Cromwell’s robust imagination sees a new country in the mirror of the future. But can a nation, or a person, shed the past like a skin? Do the dead continually unbury themselves? What will you do, the Spanish ambassador asks Cromwell, when the king turns on you, as sooner or later he turns on everyone close to him?

This was a heartbreaking ending to Cromwell’s long journey from being a brutal, brutalised teenager on the way to becoming part of his father’s criminal gang, to being the most powerful man in England, next to the King. The King who finally killed him… I wept while listening to Cromwell’s death, which was beautifully done.

Book That Made You Happy
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy

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.

A fabulous, uplifting book that appears to be very simple, but is so much more. It’s by my side at my computer where I work in these difficult times.

Favourite Book to Film adaptation
Sanditon by Jane Austen
Loved this one – and then got to the end… and – oh my word! THAT was a shock…

Most Beautiful Book You’ve Bought This Year
Underland by Robert MacFarlane
In this highly anticipated sequel to his international bestseller The Old Ways, Macfarlane takes us on an extraordinary journey into our relationship with darkness, burial, and what lies beneath the surface of both place and mind. Traveling through “deep time”—the dizzying expanses of geologic time that stretch away from the present—he moves from the birth of the universe to a post-human future, from the prehistoric art of Norwegian sea caves to the blue depths of the Greenland ice cap, from Bronze Age funeral chambers to the catacomb labyrinth below Paris, and from the underground fungal networks through which trees communicate to a deep-sunk “hiding place” where nuclear waste will be stored for 100,000 years to come. Woven through Macfarlane’s own travels are the unforgettable stories of descents into the underland made across history by explorers, artists, cavers, divers, mourners, dreamers, and murderers, all of whom have been drawn for different reasons to seek what Cormac McCarthy calls “the awful darkness within the world.”
This was a present from my lovely sister-in-law. I haven’t yet had the pleasure of tucking into this one – but I fully intend to by the end of the year. That cover is to die for – and the writing is gorgeous. Have you read it?

What Book Do You Need To Read by the End of the Year?
As many as I can – so that I can be thrilled by favourite authors, who go on delivering the goods, and delighted by talented writers I haven’t previously had the pleasure of reading…

Sunday Post – 5th July, 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.

Another week has slipped by. Himself is on annual leave and we had a list of chores planned, mostly around painting jobs in the garden, but the weather hasn’t been good enough. The highlight of the week was little Eliza’s birthday party on Tuesday. She was so excited and rushed around shouting, “Two! Twoooo!” We were glad to be able to be there.

Other than that, I’ve been editing and reading, while Himself has been watching motor racing and cricket and wishing they weren’t repeats. We haven’t any plans to go to restaurants, pubs or cafes just yet. For starters, they’ll be far too busy – and not enough folks are being careful.

The pics this week are from a walk we managed along the sea front at Littlehampton on Friday and though it was blowing a hoolie, it wasn’t raining. Here’s hoping you have a peaceful week and stay safe.

Last week I read:

The Sin Eater by Megan Campisi
Can you uncover the truth when you’re forbidden from speaking it?
A Sin Eater’s duty is a necessary evil: she hears the final private confessions of the dying, eats their sins as a funeral rite, and so guarantees their souls access to heaven. It is always women who eat sins – since it was Eve who first ate the Forbidden Fruit – and every town has at least one, not that they are publicly acknowledged. Stained by the sins they are obliged to consume, the Sin Eater is shunned and silenced, doomed to live in exile at the edge of town. Recently orphaned May Owens is just fourteen, and has never considered what it might be like to be so ostracized; she’s more concerned with where her next meal is coming from. When she’s arrested for stealing a loaf of bread, however, and subsequently sentenced to become a Sin Eater, finding food is suddenly the last of her worries.
Once I relaxed into the world, I thoroughly enjoyed this one. May is very well depicted – a sympathetic and plausible heroine, who develops throughout the story, which became a gripping mystery. Review to follow.


The Fated Sky – Book 2 of the Lady Astronaut series by Mary Robinette Kowal
The Fated Sky continued the grand sweep of alternate history begun in The Calculating Stars. It is 1961, and the International Aerospace Coalition has established a colony on the moon. Elma York, the noted Lady Astronaut, is working on rotation, flying shuttles on the moon and returning regularly to Earth. But humanity must get a foothold on Mars. The first exploratory mission is being planned, and none of the women astronauts is on the crew list. The international Aerospace Coalition has grave reservations about sending their “Lady Astronauts” on such a dangerous mission…
I loved this one. I have grown very fond of Elma and found this second book in The Lady Astronaut adventure even more gripping than the first one. I loved the progression of the characters and this was one of my outstanding reads of the month. Review to follow.

Ghost Ups Her Game – Book 9 of the Bailey Ruth mysteries by Carolyn Hart
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.
A cosy mystery with a difference – the investigator is a ghost on a mission to clear someone wrongly charged. This was an entertaining read that never lost sight of the fact that a murder had been committed, which I appreciated. The murder mystery was well handled and denouement was suitably satisfying. Review to follow.


Embers of War – Book 1 of the Embers of War series by Gareth L. Powell
The warship Trouble Dog was built and bred for calculating violence, yet following a brutal war, she finds herself disgusted by conflict and her role in a possible war crime. Seeking to atone, she joins the House of Reclamation, an organisation dedicated to rescuing ships in distress.

But, stripped of her weaponry and emptied of her officers, she struggles in the new role she’s chosen for herself. When a ship goes missing in a disputed system, Trouble Dog and her new crew of misfits and loners, captained by Sal Konstanz, an ex-captain of a medical frigate who once fought against Trouble Dog, are assigned to investigate and save whoever they can.
This excellent space opera adventure had all the ingredients that I love – but the star has to be Trouble Dog. I just loved that grumpy, clever ship who won’t back down even when faced with overwhelming odds.


The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson
Reasons Cara has died:
The emperor of the wasteland wanted to make an example of her mother and started with her
– One of her mother’s boyfriends wanted to cover up what he did to her
– She was born addicted and her lungs didn’t develop
– She was left alone, and a stranger came along
– The runners came for a neighbour and she was in the way
– The runners came for her mother and she was in the way
– The runners came for her boyfriend and she was in the way
– The runners came for no one, serving nothing but chaos and fear, and she was what they found
– Her mother left her alone in a shed while she worked or got high and she fell asleep alone and hungry and forever


Reasons Cara has lived:
– She doesn’t know but there are 8.

The multiverse business is booming, but there’s just one catch: no one can visit a world where their counterpart is still alive.
Enter Cara. Of the 382 realities that have been unlocked, Cara is dead in all but eight. But on this earth, she survived. Born in the wastelands where if a basic lack of resources didn’t kill you, violence would, Cara is happy to reap the benefits of a job and a safe place in the city to call home.
But when one of her eight remaining doppelgangers dies under mysterious circumstances, Cara is plunged into a new world with an old secret. What she discovers will connect her past and future in ways she never could have imagined – and reveal her own role in a plot that endangers not just her world, but the entire multiverse.
I know! Isn’t that a doozy of a blurb?? This proved to be a gem of a read. I enjoyed the tension humming through this gritty, dystopian science fiction multiverse adventure and found it hard to put down until I’d finished. Review to follow.


My posts last week:

June Roundup 2020 – Reading, Writing and Blogging…

Friday Face-off featuring Kraken by China Miéville

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The House on Widows Hill – Book 9 of the Ishmael Jones by Simon R. Green

Can’t-Wait-Wednesday featuring Peace Talks – Book 16 of the Harry Dresden series by Jim Butcher

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Tuesday Treasures – 2

Review of TUYO – Book 1 of the Tuyo series by Rachel Neumeier

Sunday Post – 28th June 2020


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

TBR and Beyond’s July and August 2020 Challenge https://confessionsofayareader.wordpress.com/2020/07/02/tbr-and-beyonds-july-and-august-2020-challenge/ For those of you who like reading challenges, this is a board game you might like to have a go at…

Thursday Doors – Cottage https://jeanreinhardt.wordpress.com/2020/07/02/thursday-doors-cottage/ Another escape into the beauty of old buildings…

Funny of the Week https://blogging807.wordpress.com/2020/07/02/funny-of-the-week-2/ For the sheer random weirdness of this one – we were try to figure out ANY circumstance in which this would be possible…

Dancing Duet https://cindyknoke.com/2020/06/27/dancing-duet/ I didn’t know anything about these birds, but the way they sing in concert is magical…

On the Way to Jerusalem https://writerunboxed.com/2020/07/02/on-the-way-to-jerusalem/ While this article is aimed at writers, it seemed to me that many of us can also apply this journey to the progress of our lives.

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 HARDBACK The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Macksey #Brainfluffbookreview, #TheBoytheMoletheFoxandtheHorsebookreview #Moodboostingbook

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This book arrived in the post from my lovely sister-in-law, who took me to Bexhill last year for a writing retreat, while she got on with her thesis on medieval attitudes to depression and depressive illness.

BLURB: 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.

This is a solid delight. It is an apparently very simple book. The drawings are apparently very basic – but it takes real skill to turn a dozen or so squiggly lines into a vulnerable-looking little boy, a small mole, an alert little fox and a horse… Hm – that horse. Such a hard creature to draw really well. If I’d any doubts as to Macksey’s real talent as an artist, it is the drawing of the horse – especially when we come to the climax of the book and the drawings stop being squiggly lines and turn into something awesome and magical that brought tears to my eyes…

So we have lovely pictures on each page, but it’s the prose that turns this book from being a winsome little gem into a book with sufficient heft to want it close to me throughout the day, so I can open it when I’m feeling wobbly. The conversations the boy has with the mole, and the horse, in particular, have given me so much comfort with their truth. The one that has stayed with me the most is this quote:

“What is the bravest thing you ever said?” asked the boy.
“Help,” said the horse.

There is so much profound truth in those two lines. How often do we reach the end of our tether, completely in despair – simply because we lack the resources to help ourselves and paralysed with fear to ask others for help? I could have saved myself such misery as a young woman if I’d taken on board that life lesson…

There are profound things about the role of cake in our lives, too, that mole shares with us… It took about ten minutes to read the book from cover to cover and in the space of that time I laughed aloud and I wept – I’m finding myself a tad more emotional, these days. But I stand by the fact that any book which can make me do both in such a short timespan is remarkable. There is no preaching or judgement – just kindness, acceptance in a chat between a small boy and his animal companions.

And this book is right by my side for the duration. Very highly recommended for anyone who feels a tad overwhelmed or frightened right now…
10/10



Review of INDIE Ebook Relatively Strange – Book 1 of the Strange series by Marilyn Messik #Brainfluffbookreview #RelativelyStrangebookreview

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I suffered a real book hangover after reading Witch Dust – see my review – so I was delighted when I discovered this paranormal psi-fi adventure. And right now I had no problem in bouncing it right to the stop of my very long TBR list…

BLURB: “I was five when I discovered I could fly, sixteen when I killed a man.
Both events were unsettling in their own way.”

It’s hard to know what’s normal, if you’re not, and it takes Stella a while to realise she’s in the definitely ‘not’ drawer. But we are who we are and we make adjustments to fit in – most of the time – and it’s only when she finds she’s not quite as unique as she thought, that things begin to acquire a whole new dimension. Forced to call on resources she didn’t know she possessed and thrust headlong into the violence of a situation for which nothing could have prepared her, Stella is suddenly face to face with the stark reality of medical experimentation and its horrifying consequences.

REVIEW: As in Witch Dust, it is the strong first-person narrative voice that beguiled me from the first line and held me throughout. It doesn’t hurt that Messik also had the pacing nailed and took us through the very conventional timeline of her infancy, youth and into her early adulthood with a mixture of anecdotes, scenes and humorous asides that pulled me right into her world. This story could have been presented with the emotional tone dialled up to the max, full of angst and pain – Stella has plenty of scary moments that had the capacity to knock her endways, after all. But that gutsy, determined toughness that characterised her grandmother and her great-aunts and their eccentricities has given her resilience and a self-belief nourished by her parents. I completely believed that her family successfully managed to keep her abilities shielded from prying eyes, while persuading her to keep them hidden, without overly daunting her.

The unfolding story of how she discovers that there are those who are far too interested into her and her abilities kept me turning the pages. Stella is a baby-boomer, born in the 1950s, and I completely believed the worldbuilding and historical era – and I’d have known if there had been any false notes, as I was also born just a few years later. The other characters who people this gripping adventure are vividly drawn. And although there are some shocking events, Stella’s narrative voice both manages to effectively depict the seriousness of what happens, yet offer a sense of hope – which I really need in my reading matter, these days.

I also like her trick of producing a number of plot twists that change up the stakes and pull Stella into a rescue mission that will place her in danger to the extent that she is exposed to a fate worse than death. And no – we’re not talking about any kind of sexual encounter – we’re talking about a real fate that would be worse than dying… Hamlet the dog is also awesome, by the way. I’m conscious that in my determination not to provide any kind of Spoiler, I have sold this book short, but the pacing, narrative voice and twisty plot provided one of the most satisfying reads of the year to date – and I’m delighted that I have two more books in this series waiting for me on my Kindle. Highly recommended.
10/10