Category Archives: colony world

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc War of the Maps by Paul McAuley #Brainfluffbookreview #WaroftheMapsbookreview

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I was delighted to see this offering on Netgalley, as Paul McAuley is always worth reading – I thoroughly enjoyed his cli-fi thriller Austral and the first book in his sci fi series The Quiet War.

BLURB: 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 thoroughly enjoyed this one. The worldbuilding, as ever with McAuley, was both detailed and plausible. But what I liked most of all about this story was that we mostly stayed in the viewpoint of the lawman, known as a lucidor, who is determined to track down a truly horrible antagonist – a murderer who casually commits atrocities, and enjoying watching his victims suffer. Unfortunately, he is also one of the foremost scientific thinkers on the planet who is able to help fight the influx of mutated creatures engulfing villages, countryside and towns, slaughtering humanity, domestic animals and wildlife alike. There are some gripping passages of the ruined landscape where no birds or insects break the silence…

So, who is right – the dogged lucidor who is convinced that Remfrey He should account for the lives he has torn apart? Or the authorities who feel that, in this extremely unusual case, Remfrey He should be allowed to atone for his misdeeds by travelling to the site of the suffering land to assist in beating back the alter women? These grotesque mutations have a social structure resembling ants and gather everything in their path to tear up and reuse it for their own purposes – including people.

Remfrey He is one of the most satisfyingly nasty characters I’ve encountered in a while, and by contrast, I grew to love the lucidor, whose name we hardly ever see. He has adopted his birth name, Thorn, after he retired from his profession of tracking down lawbreakers, when he was known as Lucidor Kyl. He is elderly, tough, resourceful and trusts no one and we’re in his head for a large chunk of the narrative. This story starts off as one man tracking another through an increasingly dangerous landscape, and broadens out as the lucidor is sucked into some of the upheavals caused by the dangerous mutations.

One of the intriguing details is that some people are gifted with particular talents, such as scrying. As well as being brilliant and resourceful, Remfrey He is a silvertongue, with the gift of persuading most people to become his disciples. And the reason why the lucidor was sent after him, is that his gift nullifies the talents of those in close proximity. I liked how that played out, because the consequence is that other people who might be able to successfully apprehend Remfrey He don’t want to work with the lucidor, as he sucks their gift dry.

This isn’t a fast-paced book. McAuley’s habit of writing dense description about every step of the way ensures that we see the world through the lucidor’s eyes and his days of plunging headlong into adventures are well and truly over. But I not only could see the world, I could taste and hear it, as this book swallowed me up and had me engrossed until right up to the end. It’s a gem that deserves to be far better known than it is. Highly recommended by fans of well-written intelligent colony world adventures and epic fantasy. The ebook arc copy of War of the Maps was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
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

Sunday Post – 23rd February, 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 was half term this week, so Monday was spent with Sally working on her book. We had a lot to get through so it was a long stint, though it’s great to know we’re making progress on such an important project. On Tuesday, the grandchildren came to stay for a few days and the children, my daughter and I braved the rain to visit the Wetland and Wildlife Trust. While it’s often a favourite venue, we were disappointed that the main lake was a drained, muddy mess and their website hadn’t warned us. The rain didn’t help, either – but it was still lovely to see Eliza’s excitement on seeing the ‘duckys’. And always a bonus to spend time with the family.

While the grandchildren were here, the weather continued to be atrocious with strong winds and rain almost constantly – until Friday when I was due to take them home! That didn’t stop us enjoying ourselves, though. Oscar had a game of Subbuteo Cricket with Himself, binge-watched Harry Potter films with us and helped sort out the foreign coins from a bucket full of change Rob had left behind when he headed off to L.A. Meanwhile, Frankie and I caught up with each other’s projects, went out for coffee together and he spent time working with a new box of watercolours. He also went out on Wednesday evening to catch up with Tim, while I was at Writing Group.

Yesterday, Himself and I went out for lunch together, before he returned to work, and I got back in touch with Mantivore Warrior. My sister has been recovering from last week’s mishap – many thanks for all your kind good wishes – and is now feeling a lot better. Today, I want to get more written on my novel, as I’m hoping to have the first draft completed by the end of the month – which is approaching far too fast!

 

Last week I read:
Skyward – Book 1 of the Skyward series by Brandon Sanderson
Spensa’s world has been under attack for decades. Now pilots are the heroes of what’s left of the human race, and becoming one has always been Spensa’s dream. Since she was a little girl, she has imagined soaring skyward and proving her bravery. But her fate is intertwined with that of her father’s—a pilot himself who was killed years ago when he abruptly deserted his team, leaving Spensa the daughter of a coward, her chances of attending Flight School slim to none. No one will let Spensa forget what her father did, yet fate works in mysterious ways. Flight school might be a long shot, but she is determined to fly. And an accidental discovery in a long-forgotten cavern might just provide her with a way to claim the stars.
I thoroughly enjoyed this coming of age, space opera adventure featuring Spensa, a feisty heroine determined not to give up. I’m delighted to realise I have the audiobook of the second book in this series.

The Doors of Eden by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Lee’s best friend went missing on Bodmin Moor, four years ago. She and Mal were chasing rumours of monsters when they found something all too real. Now Mal is back, but where has she been, and who is she working for? When government physicist Kay Amal Khan is attacked, the security services investigate. This leads MI5’s Julian Sabreur deep into terrifying new territory, where he clashes with mysterious agents of an unknown power ¬who may or may not be human. And Julian’s only clue is some grainy footage ¬– showing a woman who supposedly died on Bodmin Moor.
Tchaikovsky just goes from strength to strength – I loved this Netgalley arc, which is one of my favourite reads of the year so far. It’s a hefty read at just under 600 pages, but I tore through it as it includes all sorts of cool sci fi ideas, along with a cracking thriller. Review to follow.

My posts last week:

P is for Pluto – Book 3 of the Molly Marbles mystery series by Jackie Kingon

Friday Faceoff featuring These Broken Stars – Book 1 of the Starbound series by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

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

January 2020 Roundup – Reading, Writing and Blogging…

Sunday Post 16th February 2020

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

What Genre Do You Love Most? (Reasons to Love Urban Fantasy) https://www.sunnybuzzybooks.co.uk/2020/02/what-genre-do-you-like-most-reasons-to.html?spref=tw I really enjoyed reading this one, while at the same time wondering how I’d answer these questions. Which is your favourite genre?

Jackson’s Letter and a Great Book https://jenniefitzkee.com/2020/02/17/jacksons-letter-and-a-great-book/ That Jennie is an inspired teacher is apparent from her blog – I just loved this article…

Farewell https://livinginthepagesz.wordpress.com/2020/02/10/farewell/ What a beautiful summing up of a stage in her life. Anushka’s article left me with a lump in my throat…

10 of the Best Poems by African-American Poets https://interestingliterature.com/2020/02/african-american-poems-poets/ There are quite a few here I don’t know and some I think that should be and aren’t. Do you agree with this list?

New Service at Heart of the Story: First 50 Pages Critiques! https://saraletourneauwriter.com/2020/02/21/first-50-pages-critiques/ I know from experience that Sara is an excellent editor, painstaking and skilled. So if you are looking for some advice to get your WIP on the right track, this might be of help…

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

Review of KINDLE Ebook P is for Pluto – Book 3 of the Molly Marbles mystery by Jackie Kingon #Brainfluffbookreview #PisforPlutobookreview

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This is the third offering in this quirky series, – see my reviews of Chocolate, Chocolate Moons and Sherlock Mars. The author contacted me to ask if I’d be interested in reading a review copy of P is for Pluto. I was intrigued to see where she’d take this story, after reading the previous books, so happily agreed…

BLURB: Molly is heading to Pluto. Send in the clones…
Molly’s Bistro is opening a new branch of the famous Martian restaurant on Pluto. But the opening is delayed when their chef is murdered. With the Pluto Police taking a relaxed approach to crime, Molly heads to Pluto to help crack the case and get the restaurant back on track. But she will have to face clone confusion, kidnapping chocolatiers, and the spice mafia if she is to solve this mystery.

Don’t let the fact that you haven’t read the previous two books in the series worry you – they are only very loosely linked and some time has gone by since the previous case, anyway, so you shouldn’t flounder if you crash midway into this series. I read quite a lot – but I can safely say that Kingon’s quirky mix of humour and space opera sci fi is completely original. To be honest, while the investigation bubbles along and is clearly the narrative drive for the story, it is more of a reason why Molly and eventually her family pitch up on Pluto. I didn’t really care all that much about who killed Herb Tarragon, although the denouement and explanation for the crime is well handled and it concludes entirely satisfactorily.

For me, the draw of this book and the reason why I kept turning the pages, was to find out what Molly and her two sidekicks, Trenton and Jersey would get up to, next. It’s an oddly uneven book. The characterisation is sketchy, as there are times when I would have liked to know more about Molly’s thoughts, particularly when she is in danger, which is frequently. There are random time jumps when days pass and we have no idea what the characters are doing – the sort of detail the picky editor in me notices and normally would make me seriously consider tossing the book aside in disgust. But I don’t. Because Kingon’s superpower is the weird blend she achieves when scene setting, managing to deliver a layered world and a lot of facts about it, wrapped up with some humorous asides including a fair dollop of science – often with a punning joke. Likewise, her world has entertainment, with stars and personalities, who are alluded to, along with historical details which are often comically wrong. I am struck by how much lighter her humorous touch is in this offering, which occasionally had me laughing out loud.

Molly is a foodie and while there are plenty of chocolate moments – there is nonetheless a slight bite to the writing which I really enjoyed. Molly’s friends, who often accompany her, are clearly loyal and concerned for her safety – but that doesn’t stop them freeloading wherever possible. Her twin daughters are very vain and her husband is a workaholic, but that’s alright, because so is Molly… Recommended for fans of quirky cosy mysteries set in space. The author provided me with a review copy, in return for an honest opinion of the book.
8/10

Friday Faceoff – Don’t dress to kill, dress to survive… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoffbigdressescovers

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this week we are featuring covers with BIG DRESSES. I’ve selected These Broken Stars – Book 1 of the Starbound series by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner.

 

This edition was produced by Disney Hyperion in December 2013. It’s a gorgeous cover and has become, quite rightly in my opinion, the default cover for this book. That dress is just beautiful – the colour sublime and wonderfully sets off her titian hair. I love the richness and sheer volume of those skirts and the way her hair also moves as she stretches up to him. And there are stars… *sighs with pleasure*. The problem with this cover is that the title font just disappears, being far too slight to prevail against the action and colour of the cover.

 

Published in May 2016 by Carlsen, this German cover is not a bad effort. The two faces both looking out at us are eye-catching and again, the starscape appearing through the main image is effective and gives us a real clue as to the genre. However, while I like the attractive style of the font – it’s the wrong colour, being far too close to the skin tones of the faces behind it, so it essentially disappears when in thumbnail.

 

This Portuguese edition, published by Editora Planeta in December 2015, is featuring the romance far more heavily, while also giving us a taste of the alien planet below. Split image covers like this can work as long as the divide is effective, which I think it is in this case. I think while the font works for a romance, it isn’t so successful if you take into account the sci fi element. However, the problem for me is that the kissing couple is not something that would induce me to pick up the book.

 

This French edition, produced by La Martinière Jeunesse in December 2013, is more heavily leaning towards the sci fi element – you won’t be surprised to learn that this was a very close contender for me. I like the tension evident on the protagonists’ faces and the punchy font, as well as the clearly alien nature of the landscape featured across the top half of this cover.

 

This paperback edition, published by Allen & Unwin in December 2013 is my favourite. It is essentially the top cover, with all the lushness and loveliness AND you can read the book’s name, which has to be a bonus😊. Which is your favourite?

Sunday Post – 2nd February, 2020 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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

This week was the first since Christmas which was just routine – and I was very grateful for it. I’ve now recovered from my stomach upset, other than the occasional uncomfortable twinge. Other than that, so far we are both okay healthwise, which is a plus with all the nasty colds and illnesses going the rounds. I taught Tim as usual on Monday, which went well. Though I missed Pilates – again! Something always seems to come up on a Monday afternoon, but at least I made Fitstep on Wednesday.

On Thursday morning, Himself and I had breakfast together at the Look and Sea centre, enjoying the river views, although I’m not convinced by the refurbishment. At least the food was good. On Friday, I spent the day with my daughter and little Eliza, who is full of cold. I had a lovely time with them both and also managed to stay long enough to see the older grandchildren, too. Yesterday I worked all day on an editing project with a friend and had a lazy lie-in this morning, listening to a lovely audiobook…

Last week I read:

Bone Silence – Book 3 of the Revenger series by Alastair Reynolds
Two sisters ran away from home to join the crew of a spaceship. They took on pirates, faced down monsters and survived massacres . . . and now they’re in charge. Captaining a fearsome ship of their own, adventures are theirs for the taking. But Captain Bosa’s fearsome reputation still dogs their heels, and they’re about to discover that, out in space, no one forgives, and no one forgets . . .
I thoroughly enjoyed this one. It was a really solid finish to an unusual and dark-toned space opera adventure that featured on a sibling relationship, rather than a romantic one.

 

Crownbreaker – Book 6 of the Spellslinger series by Sebastien de Castell
Once an outlaw spellslinger, Kellen Argos has made a life for himself as the Daroman Queen’s protector. A little magic and a handful of tricks are all it takes to deal with the constant threats to her reign. But when rumors of an empire-shattering war begin to stir, Kellen is asked to commit an unimaginable act to protect his queen…
I have thoroughly enjoyed this quirky fantasy series featuring a young failed mage and his ferocious squirrel cat, so put off this one in case it didn’t bring the whole adventure to a proper conclusion. However, I needn’t have worried – it was wound up with plenty of adventure and flourish, leaving me with a lump in my throat. Review to follow.

 

Ribbonworld – Book 1 of The Balcom Dynasty series by Richard Dee
Miles Goram has a problem. All the down-on-his-luck journalist planned on doing was writing a hotel review and now there’s a body in his bathroom. Far from home on a strange planet, Miles must deal with the fact that somebody wants him dead. Welcome to Reevis, a planet without days or nights where life is only possible under a vast pressure dome.
The murder mystery was well plotted, though nothing extraordinary – but the worldbuilding of the ribbonworld described in this story was amazing.

 

AUDIOBOOK 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.
I really enjoyed this twisty space opera thriller, which really drilled down into what it means to have your brain chemistry altered to suit society’s needs. Review to follow.

 

My posts last week:

Friday Faceoff featuring Foreigner – Book 1of the Foreigner series by C.J. Cherryh

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Bone Silence – Book 3 of the Revenger series by Alastair Reynolds

Series I Completed in 2019

Sunday Post 26th January 2020

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

My Favourite Books of 2019 https://notesfromareaderholic.com/2020/01/20/my-favorite-books-of-2019/ I got a shoutout with my reviewing hat on, as someone who regularly recommends authors Jan enjoys reading. Even better – Mantivore Dreams made her list of favourite reads of the year! Thank you, Jan😊.

Fantastic Find at the Bookstore #7: Chosen https://platformnumber4.com/2020/01/22/fantastic-find-at-the-bookstore-7-chosen/ Becky clearly has a nose for finding books – but this is remarkable discovery…

5 New Poetry Collections to Watch Out For https://librarystaffpicks.wordpress.com/2020/01/29/5-new-poetry-collections-to-watch-out-for-4/ This award-winning library site is always worth a visit…

The Benefits of Sensory Deprivation for Writers https://writerunboxed.com/2020/01/27/the-benefits-of-sensory-deprivation-for-writers/ I particularly noticed this one, as I’m writing a character whose senses of smell and colour are heightened – and found it fascinating reading…

Splitting a Novel http://melfka.com/archives/30282 As someone who has frequently felt obliged to perform major surgery on my manuscripts, it was interesting to read someone else’s experience…

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

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

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this week we are featuring FIRST CONTACT covers. I’ve selected Foreigner – Book 1 of the Foreigner series by C.J. Cherryh, who writes this dynamic so very, very well…

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Shoot for the Moon Challenge – 2019 Roundup #Brainfluffbookblog #ShootfortheMoon2019Roundup

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This is now an annual event – in the dying days of the year, my writing buddy Mhairi Simpson and I sit down together and set ourselves targets for the coming year. The theory is that in aiming for the insanely unrealistic, we’ll achieve more than if we were more cautious in our goalsetting. These are the targets I set for 2019 – how did I do?

• Edit and publish Mantivore Dreams – Book 1 of The Arcadian Chronicles
I released Mantivore Dreams at the end of August, so it was bang on target, given I’d planned to publish it during the summer.

• Complete, edit and publish Mantivore Prey – Book 2 of The Arcadian Chronicles
Mantivore Prey was released just three months later, at the end of November, and I’m really pleased with the way it turned out. I’d had a battle with this one and I feel I’ve managed to complete Kyrillia’s story in a way that is both powerful and moving. Vrox’s story will be concluded in Mantivore Warrior, due out after Easter, all being well.

• Rewrite, edit and submit Miranda’s Tempest
This didn’t happen and for the time being, I’m going to abandon this project. Miranda’s Tempest is too far from my current goal, which is to continue working on my self-publishing career. So breaking off from my writing and publishing schedule to fit in a book that I think could cause me major problems in the writing seems a daft move, right now.

• Outline and start on the first draft of Bloodless – Book 1 of the Beth Wheeler mysteries
I didn’t manage to get to this one, either. Mantivore Prey took longer to rewrite and edit – I don’t write particularly quickly and my editing process isn’t all that fast. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article – these goals were ambitious, and I failed with this one.

• Release paperback editions of Dying for Space and Breathing Space
I’ve now managed to get both these books published in paperback – in fact, Breathing Space is pretty much hot off the press, as I uploaded the paperback format just a couple of weeks ago. I’m thrilled to be able to hold the books in my hand, and particularly like how the blurb and the Griffinwing Publishing logo appear on the back cover.

• Organise reviews for the release of Netted
I was delighted to have a handful of reviews organised for Netted when it was released by Grimbold Publishing. And I’m very happy with the amazing cover that Mhairi designed.

• Regain my fitness and stamina
I now feel a whole lot better, but still haven’t regained the stamina and fitness I’d achieved in the early part of 2018. However, now I’m taking blood pressure tablets, I’m feeling so much better and in a position to really work on building up my stamina and fitness.

• Continue delivering my Creative Writing courses at Brighton Metropolitan College
I achieved this goal, in that I completed the 2018/19 academic year with my lovely students, before resigning from the position of Creative Writing tutor, after a wonderful ten-year stint. It was a wrench and I still miss them, but running those three classes, along with my other obligations, was simply too much. Since stepping down from the post, I’ve felt a lot better and have found writing easier. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make, though.

• Continue teaching TW
I continued to teach Tim, as part of a team of tutors who also supported him when he attended Chichester College to take a Music Diploma. The course has a two-year option, but Tim decided not to continue his education in a college setting, as he feels he learns more on a one-to-one basis. We prepared him for the last section of his English Functional Skills Level Two exam – the Reading paper – throughout the Autumn term. While he is a fluent reader, he found it a challenge to compare and contrast three separate texts, then answer questions on them – but then this exam is commensurate with a GCSE English Language qualification, so it isn’t meant to be too easy. He took the exam at the end of November 2019 and during his first lesson after Christmas, we got the news that he not only passed it – he smashed it by getting an amazing 25/30!

• Continue blogging about books and writing
I thoroughly enjoy reading and reviewing books – I’m keeping my target for the year at 100 books, although during 2019 I read 168 books and wrote 128 reviews, though some have yet to be published. I had intended to branch out from mostly featuring book reviews, to taking part in reading challenges such as Love Your Library and Beat the Backlist. It didn’t happen, as I’m rubbish at nipping across to the host site and adding the links. Although I did participate in Sci Fi Month, which I absolutely loved. I wrote a measly five articles in my series authoring annals, so that was also something of a fail.

During 2019, I wrote 350,569 words – 151,500 were written for the blog, just under 52,000 were in connection with my teaching duties and just over 147,000 words went towards my novels. I published the boxed set of The Sunblinded trilogy, Mantivore Dreams and Mantivore Prey – and I had the fun of watching someone else publish Netted. I also had my Roman steampunk story ‘The Final Voyage of Juno’s Breath’ published in the anthology Airship Shape and Bristol Fashion II.

While I would have liked to have managed to get more books completed, I am pleased to see my backlist steadily growing. Overall, I think the 2019 Shoot for Moon Challenge went reasonably well. I shall post my goals for the 2020 Shoot the Moon Challenge at the end of the month. What about you – do you find setting targets helpful? What was your biggest success of 2019?

Review of INDIE Ebook Valkyrie Burning – Book 3 of the Hayden War Cycle by Evan Currie #Brainfluffbookreview #ValkyrieBurningbookreview

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I have read and enjoyed the two previous books in this series, particularly the first one, On Silver Wings – see my review here. So I was pleased to see that Himself had also picked this one up…

BLURB: The war that began on Hayden’s World years ago has blossomed into a brawl across the stars, and yet that single and otherwise largely unimportant colony continues to be a central point in the conflagration. Human forces have pushed outward, now taking enemy worlds in response to the attacks on their own, but they don’t have the numbers or the power to hold what they take. Now the alien Alliance shows a sliver of it’s true power, and the war for domination of the skies over Hayden burns brightly once more…

I have cut short the rather chatty blurb, but you do get the gist – this is a continuation of the military space opera adventure featuring Sorilla Aida as a super soldier who ends up back down on the planet Hayden, once again. Inevitably as this adventure has worn on, we get a wider number of characters pulled into the story as there are also sections from the viewpoint of the aliens who are attacking Hayden. They seem rather too similar in outlook and culture to the human commanders embroiled in this war, however this is not a dealbreaker.

Currie has a fluid writing style that whips the story along with plenty of pace and action. What I did miss from this slice of the adventure was enough of Sorilla who I fell in love with during On Silver Wings and I would have liked to have seen more of her – especially after that amazing stunt she pulls with the space tether. The outstanding aspect of this book are the space battles, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Currie has set out the rules by which his technology works and gives his reader a clear understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the ships embroiled in his battles, which works really well. There was a shocking outcome which reminded me all over again that Currie is not afraid to kill off characters that I’ve grown to enjoy.

I found this an entertaining and readable adventure and look forward to more Hayden goodness in the future. Recommended for fans of military space opera.
8/10

Review of KINDLE Ebook Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson #Brainfluffbookreview #Aurorabookreview

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I loved Robinson’s Mars series and have also enjoyed some of his subsequent work, as he is an ambitious writer, willing to push the envelope in what he does – see my review of 2312.

BLURB: Our voyage from Earth began generations ago. Now, we approach our new home. AURORA.

And that’s it – the blurb. How refreshingly short and to the point… As you may have gathered, this is a generational ship adventure in the closing stages of its long, long journey. I was impressed at the strength of the characterisation of the main protagonist, Freya, who is the daughter of the main engineer striving to keep Aurora, their ship, in one piece long enough for the arrival at Tau Ceti. Roberson writes on the harder side of science fiction, so there is a fair amount of technical detail regarding keeping the ship and all the systems running. I found a lot of the problems thrown up by trying to keep a small biome running really fascinating – of course, this is fiction rather than science, but many of the issues Robinson raises did sound scarily plausible.

While many of the problems around a generational ship were interesting, I am always all about the story and that means characters. There have been times when I have found Robinson’s characterisation a little thinner than I would have liked. Not so here. I loved Freya and I thought his depiction of her development from a young girl, through the main relationships throughout her life, until she is facing the historic events around the arrival at Tau Ceti absolutely convincing.

The other strength in this narrative is the way the plot twists kept coming. I simply didn’t predict the way events unspooled on the arrival to their longed-for destination, and was unable to put the book down as I was utterly engrossed in finding out what would happen next. That is about all I’m going to say about the plot as I would hate to provide any spoilers – this is one that needs to be read with the minimum amount of foreknowledge. That strong narrative kept me turning the pages, so that I read faaar into the night.

Any niggles? Robinson is fond of slowing the pace right back down at times, and there were long – and I mean long – passages where he muses about the philosophy surrounding the ship’s consciousness, which I felt tipped into self-indulgence. However, it wasn’t a dealbreaker. There is so much in this book that I loved and I know that Aurora will stay in my head for a long time to come. Highly recommended for fans of excellent generational ship adventures.
8/10