Category Archives: coming-of-age

My Outstanding Reads of the Year – 2018 #Brainfluffbookblogger #MyOutstandingReadsoftheYear2018

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It’s been another great reading year with loads of choice within my favourite genres, so I ended up reading 162 books with 125 reviews published and another 23 in hand. In no particular order, these are the books that have stood out from the rest in the best way. Some of them might not even have garnered a 10 from me at the time – but all those included have lodged in my head and won’t go away. And none of this nonsense about a top 10 – I can’t possibly cope with a limit like that.

The Stone Sky – Book 3 The Broken Earth trilogy by N.K. Jemisin
The whole trilogy is an extraordinary read – a mash-up between fantasy and science fiction and sections of it written in second person pov. It shouldn’t work, but it does because her imagination and prose fuses together to make this more than a sum of its parts. See my review.

 

Hyperspace Trap by Christopher G. Nuttall
I like this author’s writing anyway and I’m a sucker for a well-told space opera adventure, so I read a fair few. However, something about this one has stuck – I often find myself thinking about those passengers on the space liner and the crew looking after them, while marooned by a malign presence. See my review.

 

The Cold Between – A Central Corps novel by Elizabeth Bonesteel
This is the start of a gripping space opera adventure with interestingly nuanced characters, whose reactions to the unfolding situation around them just bounces off the page. I love it when space opera gets all intelligent and grown-up… See my review.

 

The Green Man’s Heir by Juliet E. McKenna
This fantasy adventure is set in contemporary Britain with the protagonist very much hampered by his fae ancestry and trying to discover more about that side of his family. It gripped me from the first page and wouldn’t let go until the end, when I sulked for days afterwards because I wanted more. See my review.

 

Head On – Book 2 of the Lock In series by John Scalzi
This is such a smart, clever premise. The paralysed young protagonist is able to live a nearly-normal life because his consciousness is uploaded into a robot, when he pursues a career fighting crime. Science fiction murder mysteries are one of my favourite genres, when it’s done well – and this is a great example. See my review.

 

Before Mars – Book 3 of the Planetfall series by Emma Newman
This has been an outstanding series – and this tight-wound thriller is no exception. I love the fact that Newman tackles the subject of motherhood, which isn’t a subject that comes up all that often in science fiction. See my review.

 

Child I by Steve Tasane
I’ve been haunted by this book ever since I read it. It’s not long and the language is very simple. The little boy telling the story is bright and funny and not remotely self pitying. When I started reading it, I assumed it was set in a post-apocalyptic future – and then discovered that it was set right now and is the distilled experience of children from all over the world. And I wept. See my review.

 

The Wild Dead – Book 2 of The Bannerless Saga by Carrie Vaughn
This was the most delightful surprise. This is another murder mystery set in the future – this time in post-apocalyptic America once law and order has been re-established. I loved the atmosphere, the society and the above all, I fell in love with Enid, the no-nonsense, practical lawgiver sent to sort out the puzzle of a body of a girl that nobody appears to know. See my review.

 

The Great Alone by Kristen Hannah
As well as being a story of a family, this is also a homage to Alaska and a time when it was a wilder, less organised place. It isn’t one of my normal reads, but my mother sent me this one as she thought I’d love it – and, being my mum, she was right. See my review.

 

Fallen Princeborn: Stolen by Jean Lee
I’ve come to know the author from her amazing blog and was happy to read a review copy of her book – what I wasn’t prepared for was the way her powerful, immersive style sucked me right into the skin of the main character. This contemporary fantasy is sharp-edged, punchy and very memorable. See my review.

 

Eye Can Write: a memoir of a child’s silent soul emerging by Jonathan Bryan
This is another amazing read, courtesy of my lovely mum. And again, she was right. This is a non-fiction book, partly written by Jonathan’s mother and partly written by Jonathan himself, whose severe cerebral palsy locked him into his body, until he found a way to communicate with the outside world using one letter at a time. See my review.

 

Windhaven by George R.R. Martin and Lisa Tuttle
This remarkable colony world adventure is about a girl yearning to break into the closed community of flyers – and what happens when she does. I love a book all about unintended consequences and this intelligent, thought-provoking read thoroughly explores the problems, as well as the advantages of throwing open this elite corps to others. See my review.

 

Strange the Dreamer – Book 1 of Strange the Dreamer duology by Laini Taylor
I loved her first trilogy – but this particular book has her writing coming of age. The lyrical quality of her prose and her amazing imagination has her odd protagonist pinging off the page. See my review.

 

Battle Cruiser – Book 1 of the Lost Colonies series by B.V. Larson
This is just such fun. William Sparhawk is a rigidly proper young captain trying to make his way in the face of enmity from his superiors due to his family connections, when he’s pitchforked right into the middle of a ‘situation’ and after that, the tale takes off and buckets along with all sorts of twists and turns that has William becoming less rigid and proper… See my review.

 

Certain Dark Things by Sylvia Moreno-Garcia
That this author is a huge talent is a given – and what she does with a tale about a vampire on the run in a city that has declared it is a no-go area for the destructive creatures is extraordinary. Review to follow.

 

The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas
I’ll be honest – I liked and appreciated the skill of this book as I read it, but I didn’t love it. The characters were too flawed and unappealing. But it won’t leave me alone. I find myself thinking about the premise and the consequences – and just how right the setup is. And a book that goes on doing that has to make the list, because it doesn’t happen all that often. Review to follow.

Are there any books here that you’ve read? And if so, do you agree with me? What are your outstanding reads for last year?

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Review of PAPERBACK Caraval – Book 1 of the Caraval series by Stephanie Garber #Brainfluffbookreview #Caravalbookreview

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I’ll admit it – it was the cover of this one that caught my eye – and the premise that a complicated, magical game was at the heart of the story…

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over. But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives…

And that’s as much of the very chatty blurb that I’m prepared to include as far too many of the major plotpoints are revealed, so my first piece of advice is to avoid reading the back matter. As for the story – Garber quickly snagged my attention by providing a sympathetic heroine who is desperate to escape her cruel father. She has written every year for seven years before her request to join the game is approved – and she has tickets for her and her sister. However, as she is soon to be married and is desperate to believe the kind, courteous letters that she has been exchanging with her prospective husband means he is caring and at the very least – kinder than her bullying, violent father who has been terrorising her and her sister ever since their mother disappeared.

Caraval – remember it’s only a game – all too quickly turns into a desperate quest, when her sister almost immediately disappears and Scarlett is led to believe that if she doesn’t find her before Caraval ends, then she will die… Scarlett is plunged into a beautiful, varied world where she cannot trust what anyone says or does and her decisions have unexpected and frightening consequences. Accompanying her for at least part of the way, is a young sailor who effected their escape from their family home. Unexpectedly, he joins her and is responsible for saving her life – apparently… But can she really trust him and his advice? Or is he one of the famous Master Legend’s highly trained actors?

This one is a real page-turner as Scarlett struggles to work out how to survive and track down what has happened to her beautiful, wilful sister – and it is the love between the two sisters that is the emotional engine that powers this story, despite the love story also threading through it. I really enjoyed it and found the twisting, often surreal situations that Scarlett was confronted with kept the pages turning late into the night.

Of course, it’s all very well constructing a tension-filled mystery with high stakes – but at the end, the denouement must deliver. I was pleased to find it did. Some of my guesses about what was going on were correct – however, most of them weren’t and I loved the way Garber wrapped this one up. Recommended for those who like their thrillers with a strong paranormal twist, delivered by a sympathetic protagonist.
8/10

Review of KINDLE Ebook The High Ground – Book 1 of the Imperials series by Melinda M. Snodgrass #Brainfluffbookreview #TheHighGroundbookreview

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This is one of the books that I tucked into during November for Sci Fi Month – before I realised that I’d run out of days. However, reading and writing a review about an enjoyable, entertaining space opera adventure is never a hardship…

Emperor’s daughter Mercedes is the first woman ever admitted to the High Ground, the elite training academy of the Solar League’s Star Command, and she must graduate if she is to have any hope of taking the throne. Her classmate Tracy has more modest goals — to rise to the rank of captain, and win fame and honor. But a civil war is coming and the political machinations of those who yearn for power threaten the young cadets. In a time of intrigue and alien invasion, they will be tested as they never thought possible.

This book is written from two viewpoints – and is one of the reasons why it works so well. We get an insight into Mercedes’ life and the strains of being the first young woman ever admitted to a male bastion – Solar League’s Star Command – to prepare her for the task of ruling in her father’s stead. And no – this isn’t your classic female heroine panting to knock down the barriers to women having more freedom in society, as Mercedes was perfectly happy with her court life and spending time with her highborn female companions. She is appalled when her father informs her that she will be attending The High Ground.

Her desperate reaction is also mirrored by another reluctant candidate from the other end of the social scale. Her father’s skilled but poor tailor is thrilled when his only son, Tracy, is selected as a scholarship student to attend The High Ground. Tracy isn’t so impressed – he hates the whole rotten system and has no intention of being part of it on any level, until he realises the problems it will cause his father if he walks away.

Snodgrass has been very canny in selecting both these characters as it means we see two lives at both extremes of this rigid, very hierarchical society, both with their own constraints and pressures that oddly, end up being similar even though the causes are quite different.

I’m aware that I’ve given the impression that this is one of those stories all about the social structure with lots of chat, meaningful looks and not much else – it isn’t. In amongst the classes and the difficulties of fitting in, there is plenty of action – and when it all properly kicks off with a life or death event pulling in both main characters and most of their friends and foes, I simply couldn’t put this one down.

I really enjoyed this one and am delighted to find yet another talented female author writing my favourite kind of fiction – I’m definitely going to be tracking down the next book in this series.
9/10

Sunday Post – 23rd December, 2018 #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 another whirlwind week. I’ve been rushing around like a blue-bottomed fly getting presents wrapped, writing and sending off cards and organising the food for Christmas, which isn’t quite as straightforward as it sounds, given that my son is vegan and we are vegetarian.

On Monday, I travelled to my daughter’s house to deliver the Christmas cards and pressies as I wouldn’t be seeing them over the Christmas break. I had great fun playing with baby Eliza, who is growing at a rate of knots. She fell asleep in my arms and once more I was swept with that painful wave of love which stops the breath in my lungs and makes each heartbeat hurt – a now-familiar sensation since the birth of my first grandchild. They’ll say something, or tilt their head in a particular way – and I’m suffused with that fierce feeling all over again. We went out for lunch together and then I made my way back home when Rebecca had to leave for the school run.

My son arrived on Wednesday and will be staying until after Christmas, which is a great treat, given that I don’t get a chance to see him all that often. Yesterday, I attended a lovely party where we sang seasonal songs around the piano and today, after we did the final supermarket run, we Skyped my mother-in-law, who is celebrating her birthday today. Other than food, I now have all the other Christmas chores completed – yippee!

Last week I read:
A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe – Book 1 of The Salvagers series by Alex White
Boots Elsworth was a famous treasure hunter in another life, but now she’s washed up. She makes her meager living faking salvage legends and selling them to the highest bidder, but this time she might have stumbled on something real–the story of the Harrow, a famous warship, capable of untold destruction. Nilah Brio is the top driver in the Pan Galactic Racing Federation and the darling of the racing world–until she witnesses the murder of a fellow racer. Framed for the murder and on the hunt to clear her name, Nilah only has one lead: the killer also hunts a woman named Boots.
I really enjoyed this magical, futuristic adventure set in a post-apocalyptic world, recovering after a brutal pan-galactic war. There is plenty of action-packed mayhem, which didn’t prevent me from steadily bonding with the main protagonists.

 

Hurricane – Book 3 of the Hive Mind series by Janet Edwards
Eighteen-year-old Amber is the youngest of the five telepaths who protect the hundred million citizens of one of the great hive cities of twenty-sixth century Earth. Her job is hunting down criminals before they commit their crimes, but this time a simple case leads on to something far bigger. This is a case where Amber’s team have to face the unknown and break all the rules they usually follow, while Amber has extra burdens she can’t share with anyone. She has a personal mystery to solve, and questions she wants answered, but curiosity is a dangerous trait in a telepath.
I’ve enjoyed this series from Edwards – but this is the best book so far. It answers questions about this world that have been niggling since the first one of the series, while the crime investigation provides plenty of tension and action. Review to follow.

 

There Will Be Hell to Pay by Benjamin Gilad
They say those who get deep into the Kabbalah’s mystical text of the celestial spheres can lose their minds. But one man discovers the celestial spheres are far from saintly. The man, Jack Merriman, is a Seer sucked into the celestial realm against his better judgment. He finds out Satan is a beautiful female with a keen sense of justice. Archangel Michael sounds just like James Earl Jones and the Cherubs fill the Celestial spheres with heavenly elevator music. But underneath, the Celestial Spheres are as political and incompetent as a big government agency.
This quirky paranormal investigative story has an interesting premise. I shall be reviewing it in due course.

My posts last week:

Review of Academic Curveball – Book 1 of the Braxton Campus mysteries by James J. Cudney

Teaser Tuesday featuring Hurricane – Book 3 of the Hive Mind series by Janet Edwards

Christmas-Holiday Gifts – Science Fiction and Fantasy for Everyone

Review of The Death Chamber – Book 6 of The Detective’s Daughter series by Lesley Thomson

Friday Face-Off featuring Hogfather – Book 20 of The Discworld series by Terry Pratchett

Review of How To Steal a Dragon’s Sword – Book 9 of the How To Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell

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

Friday Face-Off: Seasonal “Ho, Ho, Ho.” https://perfectlytolerable.com/2018/12/21/friday-face-off-seasonal/ This is my favourite meme and Brittany nails it this week by featuring
How The Grinch Stole Christmas – which is your favourite cover?

Echo of Love https://thelonelyauthorblog.com/2018/12/21/echo-of-love/ This time of year is particularly tough on those grieving or lonely – and this beautiful, thoughtful poem reminds us of this…

How The Left Hand of Darkness Changed Everything by Becky Chambers https://lithub.com/how-the-left-hand-of-darkness-changed-everything/ The Lit Hub featured this wonderful article by one of our most talented science fiction authors…

Indian Tea/ Chai Walla(भारतीय चाय, चाई वाल्ला) https://historyofkingpanwars.wordpress.com/2018/12/19/indian-tea-chai-walla This fascinating and detailed article includes videos and a history of growing and drinking tea on the Indian continent.

Things We Say Today Which We Owe to Shakespeare https://blogging807.wordpress.com/2018/12/17/things-we-say-today-which-we-owe-to-shakespeare/ My blogging pal, Rae Longest reblogged this post. It’s a response to all those who claim Shakespeare is no longer relevant to modern life.

In the meantime, many thanks for taking the time to comment, like and visit my blog – have a wonderful holiday, whatever your beliefs and wherever you are…

Teaser Tuesday – 18th December, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog #TeaserTuesday

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Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:
Hurricane – Book 3 in the Hive Mind series by Janet Edwards

42% I pulled back into my own head, and opened my eyes to look out of the window. No, this was no hallucination, but shocking reality. The beach had some similarities to one of the Hive beaches, but the sight of the sea devastated me.

This sea was nothing like the ones on Hive beaches. This sea was a powerful, menacing grey, with giant waves that threw themselves at the beach in anger, and the far cliffs…

There were no far cliffs. There were no supporting pillars either. The sea stretched on unbroken into the distance, as if it reached to the end of eternity.

BLURB: Eighteen-year-old Amber is the youngest of the five telepaths who protect the hundred million citizens of one of the great hive cities of twenty-sixth century Earth. Her job is hunting down criminals before they commit their crimes, but this time a simple case leads on to something far bigger.

This is a case where Amber’s team have to face the unknown and break all the rules they usually follow, while Amber has extra burdens she can’t share with anyone. She has a personal mystery to solve, and questions she wants answered, but curiosity is a dangerous trait in a telepath.

I really enjoy Janet Edwards’ writing – see my review of the first book in the series Telepath. This near-future world has most of the population living in close quarters underground and once again, I’m enjoying the adventures of this likeable protagonist. She is growing up fast with the huge responsibility resting on her shoulders – and circumstances are stacking up to crisis that only she can solve – with catastrophic consequences if she doesn’t… I’m finding it hard to put this one down!

Monday Post – 10th December, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog #NotaSundayPost

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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 has been a busy one, winding up my Creative Writing class and teaching Tim until after Christmas. I am hoping that during the break I can regain my health and stamina. My wonderful writing buddy, Mhairi and I also completed our tax returns – she comes over and we tackle them together, which makes the whole process a lot more fun and a lot less scary. It was one of those chores we’d planned to do much earlier this autumn, but I’d had to postpone as I wasn’t feeling well enough.

Other than that, I’ve started buying Christmas and birthday pressies as far too many family members saw fit to get themselves born in December, including my mother, daughter and number one grandchild. This weekend I had the grandchildren stay over for the first time in over two months – it will be the last time I’ll see them before Christmas – and we had a great time. We all went shopping yesterday morning, started decorating the house in the afternoon and went out for a Chinese meal at our favourite restaurant in the evening. So Sunday morning we spent a lazy morning recovering, before Oscar tackled the Christmas tree, while Frankie experimented with different looks. It seemed far too soon that I had to load them back into the car, ready to take them home yesterday afternoon and then sank onto the sofa, too tired to move for the rest of the evening. Hence being a day late…

Last week I read:

Ichor Well – Book 3 of the Free-Wrench series by Joseph Lallo
Ever since Nita Graus left her homeland and joined the crew of the Wind Breaker, the reputation of the airship and its crew has been growing. The destruction of the mighty dreadnought, the escape from the legendary Skykeep, and the inexplicable ability to remain hidden from the ever-watchful eye of the Fug Folk have combined to make her and her fellow crew the stuff of legend. Alas, legendary heroes cannot exist for long without attracting a worthy villain. Luscious P. Alabaster strives to be just that foe.
This steampunk adventure is great fun – though it’s a real shame that I mistakenly tucked into the third book in the series. However, I’ll be backtracking to the first two books, because I really enjoyed this one.

 

Six of Crows – Book 1 of the Six of Crows series by Leigh Bardugo
Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price–and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…
I’d heard so much about the criminal underworld fantasy adventure, so decided to give it a whirl as a break from all the science fiction I’ve recently been reading. And I’m so glad I did as I thoroughly enjoyed it.

 

 

An Easy Death – Book 1 of the Gunnie Rose series by Charlaine Harris
Set in a fractured United States, in the southwestern country now known as Texoma. A world where magic is acknowledged but mistrusted, especially by a young gunslinger named Lizbeth Rose. Battered by a run across the border to Mexico Lizbeth Rose takes a job offer from a pair of Russian wizards to be their local guide and gunnie.
I was wittering at Himself about this one and next thing I knew – he’d bought it for me… And Himself, of course – I love it that we often love the same books. We certainly both thoroughly enjoyed this one. Lizbeth’s first person narration during the variety of adventures that engulf her during a particular job had me thoroughly rooting for her. She is feisty, tough and smart and yet doesn’t come off as a Mary Sue. I found it hard to put this one down until I’d finished it.

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 2nd December 2018

Review of Eye Can Write by Jonathan Bryan

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Murder in the Dark – Book 6 of the Ishmael Jones series by Simon R. Green

Friday Face-Off featuring The Lost Hero – Book 1 of The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan

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

Fragment(s): Monday Maps and Diagrams (Science Fiction) 12/3/18 – Mark S. Geston’s Lords of the Starship (1967) https://sciencefictionruminations.com/2018/12/03/monday-maps-and-diagrams-science-fiction-12-3-18-mark-s-gestons-lords-of-the-starship-1967/
This is a quirky post about the sci fi equivalent of those fantasy maps that are so common – and it’s worth clicking on the link that gives you access to loads of others…

Top Ten Tuesday – Welcome to the Comfort Zone https://lynns-books.com/2018/12/04/welcome-to-the-comfort-zone/ Lynn’s Book Blog is one of my regular go-to visits as I love her often quirky approach and consistently high quality reviews. This list was a real treat…

Wildlife destinations in Africa that you need to check out http://chechewinnie.com/wildlife-destinations-in-africa-that-you-need-to-check-out/ This is another site I regularly check in on – the facts and fabulous pics are a real pick-me-up on a dank December day.

Write a Winter Haiku & Get the Kids Writing Too – “Snowfalls” (Haiku from MY MAINE by Bette A. Stevens https://4writersandreaders.com/2018/12/04/s-writing-too-snowfalls-haiku-from-my-maine-by-bette-a-stevenswrite-a-winter-haiku-get-the-kid/ A lovely example of a popular verse form.

The Captain’s Log – the egg (Andy Weir) https://thecaptainsquartersblog.wordpress.com/2018/12/04/the-captains-log-the-egg-andy-weir/ The Cap is a great reviewer with decided views – and in this article he provides a link to a gem of a short story by Andy Weir of The Martian fame. I loved it…

In the meantime, many thanks for taking the time to comment, like and visit my blog and have a great week.

Friday Faceoff – A hero is somebody who voluntarily walks into the unknown… Brainfluffbookblog

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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 currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and the subject this week featuring on any of our covers is a HERO, so I’ve selected The Lost Hero – Book 1 of The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riodan.

 

This edition was produced by Disney-Hyperion Books in October 2012. I really like this cover featuring a wonderful steam-driven dragon, which rightly has pride of place in the middle of the cover. The green light suffusing the backdrop ensures the metallic colouring is nicely thrown into relief. The title and author fonts are clear and inoffensive, if a tad boring, but this cover is a strong contender – even if said hero doesn’t feature all that much.

 

Published in October 2011 by Puffin, this is a really dramatic offering. The steampunk dragon is still featuring – but the lower half of the cover is given over to the young hero plunging towards the ground. It is a startling, eye-catching image. Unusually, the series details are given more emphasis than the title or even the best-selling author. While this is unquestionably a dramatic cover, it doesn’t look so effective in thumbnail.

 

This Italian edition, published by Mondadori in September 2017 has featured the lost hero of the title. The silhouette of the slumped figure depicts utter despair. With the birds pouring out of him as he dissolves, it is an arresting image that snags attention. I would love it even more, but for the fact that it fades into black both top and bottom. This means the artwork only extends over half of the cover, which is a shame, given how brilliant it is.

 

Produced by Boekeri in September 2012, this Dutch edition is more successful. I love the dramatic colouring and the protagonists staring at the devastated cityscape while that amazing mechanical dragon is also nicely featured. Those flame colours in the backdrop really jump out. I also love that border edging the whole cover which gives it an extra dimension. This is my favourite, though it’s a close-run thing between this one and the cover below.

 

This Russian edition, published by Эксмо in October 2010 has us back in the air with that wonderful mechanical dragon again. This is another cover that tells a dramatic story, with the city in flames and that amazing building featuring behind the lovely red and white font. I really like the fact that we can see the characters so clearly on board the dragon. Which one is your favourite?

Review of Eye Can Write by Jonathan Bryan #Brainfluffbookreview #EyeCanWritebookreview

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This is a book my mother sent me after seeing twelve-year-old Jonathan interviewed on TV and looking up his story.

Can you imagine not being able to speak or communicate? The silence, the loneliness, the pain. But, inside you disappear to magical places, and even meet your best friend there. However, most of the time you remain imprisoned within the isolation. Waiting, longing, hoping. Until someone realises your potential and discovers your key, so your unlocking can begin. Now you are free, flying like a wild bird in the open sky. A voice for the voiceless.

Jonathan Bryan has severe cerebral palsy, a condition that makes him incapable of speech or voluntary movement. He was locked inside his own mind, aware of the outside world but unable to fully communicate with it until he found a way by using his eyes to laboriously choose individual letters, and through this make his thoughts known.

I knew this was a special book, but was unprepared for the emotional impact. It is a book of two halves – the first part is written by Jonathan’s mother and charts the events leading up to the accident that caused Jonathan’s problems. The list of life-threatening difficulties he has endured is shockingly long, as is the number of medical interventions and trips to hospital he had needed. His gritted courage and determination were evident in the fact that he simply hung on in there and refused to die when the odds were stacked against him, time and time again.

But what for me was a source of heartbreak and intense frustration was his treatment at the special school where he was simply being warehoused. It brought back far too many unhappy memories of another bright boy whose education was severely compromised because expectations about his ability were set far too low. This book is a testament to Jonathan’s own intelligence and passion, as well as a tribute to a mother who refused to listen to the experts and was guided instead by her own instincts about her son. She taught him to read and over time, they found a way to allow him to express himself, even though it is laborious.

Jonathan’s own feelings about being trapped within his body without any way to express himself, while forced to watch the same TV programme designed for developing infants should be a wake-up call for everyone in Special Needs education. I very much hope the politicians he has met will take note of what he is saying and realise that while he is remarkable, there are probably many other children and adults with active, creative minds also trapped by their bodies. I’d like to think as a country we will take on board Jonathan’s plea that everyone should be taught to read and write, using all the technology available, unless it becomes apparent that it isn’t appropriate, which is not the case now.

In the meantime, go and track this book down. It is an emotional read, but also very uplifting. Jonathan’s poetry will stay with me for a long time…
10/10

#Sci Fi Month – The Ones That Got Away…

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I’ve loved Sci Fi Month – huge thanks to Lisa and the team for organising this fabulous event. As you’ll have realised, I got a tad carried away… In fact, I got even more carried away than is apparent on the blog – because I ran out of November with still a stack of science fiction goodness all reviewed and ready to go. So here is a quick rundown of the books that missed out:

Black Holiday – Book 2 of The Black Chronicles by J.M. Anjewierden
Morgan has finally made it, earning an officer’s slot on S.T.E.V.E., the ancient flagship of the Takiyama Merchant House. She’s survived so much to get here, and isn’t about to let lingering nightmares over those events stop her now. That said, even the toughest mechanics need down time. Grudgingly taking some shore leave, Morgan goes to visit the estate of her friend Emily, Baroness Novan – and gets caught up in trouble that, for once, isn’t of her own making…
I reviewed the first book in this entertaining series here – so was keen to jump in and see what happens next to Morgan – which was something of a shock… I really enjoyed this offering and am looking forward to reading the next one when it is released.

 

Dreadnought – Book 2 of the Lost Colonies series by B.V. Larson
Captain William Sparhawk flies Earth’s single starship on a voyage of exploration. His crew of veteran spacers begins the mission with high hopes and the best of intentions, but the universe has other plans. Instead of space merchants and potential allies, they discover Earth’s impending doom. Sparhawk must decide whether to hunt down enemy scouts to keep Earth’s new starship a secret, or to head home to warn Star Guard of the danger. Either way, he’s ignited an interstellar war.
I’ve become a solid fan of Captain William Sparhawk – see my review of Battle Cruiser – and this stagnating, dystopian society – there is a real shock at the end of this book which is a gamechanger for the next one, such that I can’t wait to jump in and discover what happens next…

 

Nimbus – Book 3 of the Psi-Tech series by Jacey Bedford
In a galaxy where the super-powers are the megacorporations, and ambitious executives play fast and loose with ethics in order to secure resources, where can good people turn for help? The megacorps control the jump gates and trade routes. They use psi-techs, implant-enhanced operatives with psionic abilities, who are bound by unbreakable contracts.
But something alien is stirring in the depths of foldspace. Something bigger than the squabbles between megacorporations and independents. Foldspace visions are supposed to be a figment of the imagination. At least, that’s what they teach in flight school. Ben Benjamin knows it’s not true. Meeting a void dragon was bad enough, but now there’s the Nimbus to contend with. Are the two connected? Why do some ships transit the Folds safely and others disappear without a trace?
I’ve loved this entertaining series from a writer I thoroughly respect – see my review of Empire of Dust here. It was her talk on how to organise submissions to agents and small publishers and fired me up so that I persevered, getting a contract with the awesome folks at Grimbold Publishing in the process. It was a blast reading this final slice of the Psi-Tech series and I’ll be reviewing it shortly.

 

The Expert System’s Brother by Adrian Tchaikovsky
After an unfortunate accident, Handry is forced to wander a world he doesn’t understand, searching for meaning. He soon discovers that the life he thought he knew is far stranger than he could even possibly imagine. Can an unlikely saviour provide the answers to the questions he barely comprehends?
I love Adrian Tchaikovsky’s writing – see my review of Children of Time here. This intriguing novella is another treat, where an unfortunate incident has unforeseen consequences – this writer is fond of those. While part of this colony world adventure was reassuringly familiar, Tchaikovsky does his trick of taking genre conventions by the scruff of their neck and giving them a good shake.

 

Satellite by Nick Lake
He’s going to a place he’s never been before: home. Moon 2 is a space station that orbits approximately 250 miles above Earth. It travels 17,500 miles an hour, making one full orbit every ninety minutes. It’s also the only home that fifteen-year-old Leo and two other teens have ever known. Born and raised on Moon 2, Leo and the twins, Orion and Libra, are finally old enough and strong enough to endure the dangerous trip to Earth. They’ve been “parented” by teams of astronauts since birth and have run countless drills to ready themselves for every conceivable difficulty they might face on the flight.
This was an intriguing read, given it was written in text-prose. While I understand a number of readers simply couldn’t get through it, I think the fact this was a paperback actually helped. The story itself is thoroughly enjoyable, apart from a set piece that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a Hollywood film, but rather let the book down. Other than that, I found the questions this book raised were both uncomfortable and pertinent for our near-future expansion into space.

 

The Boy on the Bridge – Book 2 of The Girl With All the Gifts series by M.R. Carey
Once upon a time, in a land blighted by terror, there was a very clever boy. The people thought the boy could save them, so they opened their gates and sent him out into the world. To where the monsters lived.
If you haven’t read The Girl With All the Gifts yet want to plunge into this offering, feel free to do so – while it is set in the same world, the links between the two books are tenuous and don’t add all that much to the overall story. I found this zombie apocalypse reworking a heartbreak of missed opportunities and bungled decisions – but oh so very believable. And if zombies aren’t your thing, don’t dismiss this one – they aren’t my thing either, but Carey’s a master storyteller and this is a masterful story.

So… these are the books I read and reviewed for Sci Fi Month, before I realised that November only had 30 days – and there are a number of others I haven’t yet written the reviews for. As I said, I did get a tad carried away. What about you – are there any here that have taken your eye? What did you read for Sci Fi Month?

#Sci Fi Month Review of INDIE Ebook Into the Dark – Book 1 of the Alexis Carew series by J.A. Sutherland #Brainfluffbookreview #IntotheDarkbookreview

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I had asked Himself for recommendations for more military space opera in honour of Sci Fi Month and he immediately suggested this one…

At fifteen, Alexis Carew has to face an age old problem – she’s a girl, and only a boy can inherit the family’s vast holdings. Her options are few. She must marry and watch a stranger run the lands, or become a penniless tenant and see the lands she so dearly loves sold off. Yet there may be another option, one that involves becoming a midshipman on a shorthanded spaceship with no other women.

This is essentially Hornblower in space – and very well done, too. Sutherland has taken the idea of solar sails and provides some vivid space battles that are reminiscent of the 17th and 18th century man o’war tactics. To be honest, some suspension of disbelief is required – I happily believed that the solar sails were useful and that they needed human crews rather than robot labour, but there were a few touches that stretched my credulity.

However, the plight Alexis faces if she stays on the planet is inescapable – she will be forced to marry someone she hates and despises. She is a tough energetic girl, caught up with the day to day running of the holding and takes to the rigour of life in the Navy like a space duckling takes to zero gravity. I like her straightforward character and the fact that Sutherland is mindful not to make her too much of a Mary Sue – she struggles badly with navigation.

What she has in spades is plenty of physical energy, the ability to think quickly on her feet and a fundamentally nice disposition without it becoming sickly, which is harder to do than Sutherland makes it look. Did I believe in her ability to handle the situations that she is confronted with? Yes – she is raised in a tough, colonial environment. As a historian, I have read accounts of what young men and women achieved when homesteading in the States, or working on a small farm in the UK and their physical fortitude and strength puts us all to shame. Nothing to say that can’t happen again…

I very much liked the story development and overall the worldbuilding – though I do find it difficult to believe that flogging would still be a thing in a futuristic setting, given that we know the faultlines that ran through the Royal Navy of the time and why they needed to use such extreme brutality. It was a reflection of the harsh social situation for most people at the time – I’m not sure I’m so convinced that prevails to the same extent in this particular future world.

It doesn’t stop me being keen to pick up the second book in this entertaining series as I want to know what happens next to Alexis, given there is a real twist right at the end of the book.
8/10