Category Archives: Children’s literature

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.

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.

Friday Faceoff – My soul is in the sky… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoffflyingcovers

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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 FLYING. I’ve selected Searching for Dragons – Book 2 of the Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede.



This offering, produced by HMH Books for Young Readers in November 2002, is clearly not featuring flying – it’s underground and depicting a band of rather desperate men facing down some really cross-looking dragons… I love the font and the artwork – it’s full of detail and while of its time, it is delightful.

 

Published in September 1992 by Scholastic, I love this cover. The artwork is again, absolutely fabulous with so much delightful detail, from the costume of the princess and the pattern on the underside of the carpet, to the landscape below… This is one of my favourites – despite the presence of that nasty strip of textbox running across the top.


This edition is the updated version of the first cover, published in September 2015 by HMH Books for Young Readers. This is a very strong contender, as those wormlike dragons are absolutely terrifying and I also love the details on the font and the treatment given to the author font.


This edition, published in October 1991 by Harcourt, Brace and World, is another cover featuring the flying carpet. I love the bright colours, the rippling carpet and the clear font. What I don’t like is that odd metallic frame sectioning the cover up and yet adding nothing to the design. It looks odd and is visually distracting. I’m not sure if it is supposed to represent the magical barriers raised by the wizards – but as far as I’m concerned, it simply doesn’t work.


This Thai edition is extraordinary. I love the way that elements of the story are all represented – with the protagonists toiling up the mountain in search of the lost dragon, which is trapped in a bubble. There is one of the manipulative wizards looming up the left-hand side of the cover, with an even darker, mightier draconic creature towering over everyone in the background. Here are the elements of high Fantasy portrayed in a single cover, through the lens of another culture. I love it and this one is also my favourite – because I simply cannot choose between this one and the classical European fantasy cover. They are both wonderful in completely different ways and for different reasons. Which one is your favourite?


Three AUDIBLE Fantasy Mini-Reviews – How to Betray a Dragon’s Hero; The Lost Plot; Uprooted #Brainfluffbookreviews #3Audiblemini-reviews

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Here are a series of mini-reviews of books that all fall under the fantasy genre – but couldn’t be more different if they tried… They are also enjoyable, escapist reads which is a great way to round off the wonderful month of Wyrd and Wonder. Thank you to imyril @ There’s Always Room for One More, Lisa @ Dear Geek Place and Jorie Loves a Story for their hard work in making this event such a huge success.

AUDIOBOOK How To Betray a Dragon’s Hero – Book 11 of the How To Train Your Dragon series
BLURB:High up in the Treacherous mists of the Murderous Mountains, Hiccup and the Company of the Dragonmark are in hiding. The witch’s Vampire Spydragons are guarding the shores of Tomorrow — but Hiccup is determined to become King of the Wilderwest. Can Hiccup dodge the dragons and steal back the King’s Things from Alvin before the Doomsday of Yule? And is there a traitor in Hiccup’s camp who, in the end, will betray them all?

Again, it is something of a shock to realise how much darker this penultimate book is when comparing it to the first two or three in the series. Hiccup and his companions are in a very hard place, and the world they knew has been flamed flat and turned into ruins. Cowell doesn’t pull her punches when depicting the war-torn ravaged remains of the Viking tribes as they struggle to prevail against the might of the Dragon Furious and the Dragon Rebellion.

For all that, there are still shafts of humour, chiefly courtesy of Toothless and the other small dragon that Hiccup has acquired called Hogfly and David Tennent’s fabulous narration ensured both the tension and comedy were brilliantly evoked. As ever, the pacing is perfect and it was difficult to tear myself away as the adventure went on gathering momentum. This book ends on a mighty cliffhanger and whatever you do, don’t pick it up if you haven’t read at least the previous three or four books in the series as it simply won’t make sense. A gripping, enthralling read for Viking fans of all ages.
9/10



AUDIOBOOK The Lost Plot – Book 4 of The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman
BLURB: In a 1920s-esque New York, Prohibition is in force; fedoras, flapper dresses, and tommy guns are in fashion: and intrigue is afoot. Intrepid Librarians Irene and Kai find themselves caught in the middle of a dragon political contest. It seems a young Librarian has become tangled in this conflict, and if they can’t extricate him, there could be serious repercussions for the mysterious Library. And, as the balance of power across mighty factions hangs in the balance, this could even trigger war.

Irene and Kai are locked in a race against time (and dragons) to procure a rare book. They’ll face gangsters, blackmail, and the Library’s own Internal Affairs department. And if it doesn’t end well, it could have dire consequences on Irene’s job. And, incidentally, on her life…

I was really entertained by this slice of Prohibition New York, when Irene and Kai find themselves trying to track down a rogue Librarian and a lost book in a world where dragons are playing powergames. The premise is clever, the characters enjoyable – I really love the fact that Irene is a cool, self-contained character who always performs at her best when in a really tight spot. And she spends a great deal of time in those really tight spots…

This was huge fun with gangster molls, hardboiled cops and lethally ambitious dragons trying to foil our plucky duo in their vital mission. The one slightly annoying factor for me was the very dry, low-key narration by Susan Duerdan which didn’t line up all that well with set-piece action scenes. I got AWFULLY fed up with that dropping cadence… However, it wasn’t a dealbreaker as Cogman’s vivid scene-setting, clever plotting and deft characterisation managed to rise above the rather monotonous delivery.
8/10



AUDIOBOOK Uprooted by Naomi Novik

BLURB:“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood. But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

I’ve gone back to read my original review – and realised that I gobbled this one up in two greedy gulps and now, listening to it again some four years later, I’m rather horrified at just how much I’d forgotten. It generally stands up very well to hearing the story unfold and I fell in love with Agnieszka all over again. But I was a bit startled when a very graphic sex scene suddenly appeared right in the middle of all the magical mayhem and seemed very out of place. I’ve discovered it’s a bit more of a hassle to fast-forward through bits you don’t want to hear, than it is when reading them…

Other than that, I loved the narrative drive, the story structure and the ending – though why anyone thought this was a suitable YA read frankly astounds me.
9/10

Five 5-Star Books in Five Words – Twice Over #five5-starbooksin5wordsx2 #BrainfluffWyrdandWonderChallenge2020

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The aim of this one is to select five of your all-time favourite books and sum each one up in five words as part of this year’s Wyrd and Wonder challenges. I read this fun challenge on one of my fellow blogger’s site (sorry – I made a note of who it was, then lost it…) and decided that I really, really wanted to have a bash at it. Then Himself also wanted a go and so I’ve added his choices, too.

My Selection

 

Among Others by Jo Walton
Battle-scarred schoolgirl seeking solace.
See review…

 

How to Train Your Dragon – Book 1 of the How To Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell
Naughty dragon trains small Viking.
See review…

 

Spiderlight by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Heroic quest – or is it?
See review…

 

Small Gods – Book 13 of the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
Pratchett does religion. Profound silliness.

 

The Fifth Season – Book 1 of The Broken Earth series by N.K. Jemisin
Mother’s mission – rescue her daughter.
See review…



Himself’s Selection

 

Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkein
The first, greatest epic fantasy

 

The Curse of Chalion – Book 1 of the World of the Five Gods series by Lois McMaster Bujold
Tattered hero dies three times.

 

Night Watch – Book 29 of the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
Vimes’ timeloop saves his family.

 

Furies of Calderon – Book 1 of the Codex Alera by Jim Butcher
Powerless hero surviving powerful world.

 

Dead Heat – Book 4 of the Alpha and Omega series by Patricia Briggs
Ancient werewolf visits old friend.

Review of AUDIOBOOK Dark Summer by Ali Sparkes #Brainfluffbookreview #DarkSummerbookreview

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This delightful children’s book was one of the Frankie’s Audible offerings, and given how much I’d enjoyed Sparkes’ Frozen in Time – see my review – I was happy to tuck into it.

BLURB: When Eddie discovers a secret passage in Wookey Hole caves, he just has to find out where it goes. But his amazement quickly turns to horror when he gets lost in the dark. He’s underground, on his own, and nobody knows where he is …Until a hand reaches out of the blackness. A strange, pale girl helps Eddie get back to the surface, but she can’t seem to leave the caves herself. Who is she? Or rather …what is she? And what other secrets is she hiding? Only one thing is certain – this is a summer Eddie will never forget.

I love Sparkes punchy, readable prose which pulled me right into the middle of this adventure from the first word. It didn’t hurt that the narration by Tom Lawrence was excellent and Eddie is a thoroughly likeable boy. He’s in a hard place at the start of the book – sent off to stay with his aunt while his mother recovers from a gruelling round of chemotherapy. Sparkes doesn’t go into major details about the treatment, but during the course of the book there are enough clues for us to draw that conclusion. I like the fact she didn’t spell out exactly what the illness was, giving parents and carers the option of going into more detail if the young reader is at all curious. It doesn’t help that his cousin, Darren is a bullying thug who thinks nothing of regularly beating Eddie up, mostly because of his ginger hair. Eddie is an only child who is close to his parents, and you get the sense that he is highly intelligent and probably more comfortable with adults than with his peers.

A peculiar and slightly scary encounter during an outing to Wookey caves leaves Eddie with a season ticket and a need to return to find out whether it had all been some weird waking dream. It wasn’t. I don’t want to go into the plot too much more, because it would be a real shame to spoil this tightly structured, clever story which gripped me throughout. All the characters rang true – something that doesn’t always happen in children’s fiction – and most were doing their best under difficult circumstances. There are also flashes of humour throughout, which help defuse some of the darker elements, without whitewashing them.
The villain in the story was chillingly normal. I do get fed up with pantomime baddies that so often occur in children’s fiction, and I think does them a real disservice. Sparkes’ antagonist is very plausible, who manages to persuade most people that she is just trying to do her “Christian duty”.

While the overall pacing starts off being reasonably measured, as the story progresses, the action ramps up along with the tension, so that by the end I was finding it difficult to turn this one off and walk away when my chores were done. The ending works really well and I found it unexpectedly moving. All in all, this is another stormingly good read by an excellent author who deserves to be far better known.
10/10

Review of AUDIOBOOK A Hat Full of Sky – Book 32 of the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett #Brainfluffaudiobookreview #AHatFullofSkybookreview #MoodboostingbookAHatFullofSky

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I’d read the hardback version of this book when it first was released and thoroughly enjoyed it – I love Tiffany Aching – and also read it aloud to the oldest grandchild. But this was the first time I’d had the pleasure of listening to the story…

BLURB: No real witch would casually step out of their body, leaving it empty. Tiffany Aching does. And there’s something just waiting for a handy body to take over. Something ancient and horrible, which can’t die. To deal with it, Tiffany has to go to the very heart of what makes her a witch . . .

While this book can be read as a standalone, it will make more sense if you have read the previous Tiffany Aching book, The Wee Free Men, which also features the little blue-skinned, tartan-wearing, fight-loving fae folk who live on the chalk. What you don’t have to do is read the previous thirty-one Discworld books to enjoy this offering, as it is part of a spin-off series more precisely aimed at younger readers. This adult, like many others, absolutely loved it.

I had registered, when reading, what a quirky authorial viewpoint Pratchett adopts but listening to it really brought home just how much he tends to cover in semi-omniscience, so that we get the author as storyteller nested within the narrative. I’m still trying to work out why it doesn’t grate with me, when generally it’s a point of view I hate. It probably helps that it is often very funny – which was the other aspect that struck me while listening. I was regularly laughing aloud at the exchanges between Tiffany and the Nac Mac Feegles and on one particular occasion, Tiffany and Granny Weatherwax.

The Nac Mac Feegle have adopted Tiffany as their ‘wee hag’ – their witch – and when they realise she is in danger, a hand-picked band of tiny warriors led by the brave Rob Anybody set off after her to try and save her. Their adventures are both hilarious and full of tension, something Pratchett does very well.

Tiffany is a wonderful character, yet reading this one reminded me all over again just how awesome Granny Weatherwax is – I’m aiming to use her as my role model. Though perhaps without the faded, tatty black dress, hand-made hat and hobnailed boots. I love Pratchett’s take on witchcraft and suspect, somewhat sadly, that many elderly women burnt in previous centuries as witches had adopted the role of doctor and agony aunt in the manner of hardworking Mistress Level, the witch to whom Tiffany is apprenticed. Because under the jokes and humour are some important messages – that there is power in giving, as well as taking and that often cruelty and aggression is often born of fear, rather than strength.

This read is definitely a mood-boosting book and comes highly recommended to fans of quirky, enjoyable writing – Pratchett is one of those rare authors who defies genre boundaries.
10/10



Sunday Post – 22nd March, 2020 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

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

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

Last week I read:

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




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




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




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


My posts last week:

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

Friday Face-off featuring The Naturalist series by Andrew Mayne

Review of Autonomous by Annalee Newitz

Review of HARDBACK Recursion by Blake Crouch

Sunday Post – 15th March 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valor by Ally Carter #Brainfluffbookreview #WinterborneHomeforVengeanceandValorbookreview

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It was the title of this one that caught my eye – and the thought that it might appeal to my rather picky grandson, given his love of the Lemony Snickett series. But I was also keen to tuck into this rather gothic-sounding children’s adventure…

BLURB: April didn’t mean to start the fire. She wasn’t even the one who broke the vase. She had absolutely no intention of becoming the only person who knows that Gabriel Winterborne, the missing-and-presumed-dead billionaire, is neither missing nor dead and is actually living in the basement of Winterborne House, sharpening his swords and looking for vengeance. Now that April knows Gabriel Winterborne is alive, it’s up to her to keep him that way. But there’s only so much a twelve-year-old girl can do, so April must turn to the other orphans for help. Together, they’ll have to unravel the riddle of a missing heir and a creepy legend, and find a secret key, before the only home they’ve ever known is lost to them forever.

This book starts with a bang as April finds herself caught up in a museum fire, giving us a good opportunity to bond with the main protagonist. I found April to be very engaging – she’s an orphan who has bounced around the highly unsatisfactory care system and been with a number of foster-families. She could so easily have been a victim, but is far too tough and wary – although her dogged belief that her mother will, one day, come for her is a poignant reminder of her vulnerability.

After finding herself living in the Winterborne House with the lovely, generous Ms Nelson and a group of other orphans, April becomes aware that all is not what it seems – and the adventure takes off from there. Fast-paced and occasionally taking the children’s ingenuity and stamina beyond the bounds of belief, I nevertheless thoroughly enjoyed the rollicking story.

However, my main grizzle is that this story was left on something of a cliffhanger ending, and neither Goodreads nor Amazon have indicated that this is the first in a series. Obviously Carter is assuming there will be another book, but it would be nice if her young readers had some reassurance of that fact, too. And yes… I have knocked a point off, as I happen to think it’s important. The ebook arc copy of Winterborne House for Vengeance and Valor was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
7/10