Category Archives: contemporary

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Garden Club Murder by Amy Patricia Meade – Book 2 of the Tish Tarragon series #Brainfluffbookreview #TheGardenClubMurderbookreview

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I requested this one as I hadn’t read anything by this author and recently I’ve read a number of cosy murder mysteries and thoroughly enjoyed them as a palette cleanser after reading something darker and heftier.

Literary caterer Letitia ‘Tish’ Tarragon is preparing her English Secret Garden-themed luncheon for Coleton Creek’s annual garden club awards, but when she is taken on a tour of some of the top contenders with the garden club’s president, Jim Ainsley, Tish is surprised at how seriously the residents take the awards – and how desperate they are to win. Wealthy, retired businessman Sloane Shackleford has won the coveted best garden category five years in a row, but he and his Bichon Frise, Biscuit, are universally despised. When Sloane’s bludgeoned body is discovered in his pristine garden, Tish soon learns that he was disliked for reasons that go beyond his green fingers. Have the hotly contested awards brought out a competitive and murderous streak in one of the residents?

This one started promisingly enough – Meade took us straight into the story and effectively introduced us to the main character. The setting was convincingly portrayed, I liked the supporting cast, the murder was committed with plenty of drama and a satisfying number of suspects with strong motives were introduced.

However I found Tish increasingly annoying – the woman was a veritable saint in all but name. Everyone immediately liked and trusted her, so tended to confide in her no matter how nosey and intrusive her questions became… the sheriff was suitably awestruck at her ability to winkle out telling details to the extent that he took her into his confidence… her gorgeous and implausibly nice lawyer boyfriend would have crawled to the Moon and back on his knees to please her… despite gadding off to sniff out said telling details, she still managed to whip up a delicious meal with her long-suffering staff without breaking a sweat. By the end, I was fed up to the back teeth with her.

Another detail that also jarred – Meade has evidently been told not to use the word said in speech tags, so we had all sorts of odd expressions. He deemed was the worst example, but there were plenty of other clunky phrases that marred the dialogue scenes. However, I probably could have overlooked these details if it wasn’t for the really odd way this story was wrapped up. I was very uncomfortable with the way the victim had taunted the perpetrator, so Meade ensured that no one could possibly feel any sympathy for him, and at the same time, neither was I entirely sure that the justice system would have played out in that way. And cosy mysteries aren’t supposed to leave those kinds of issues dangling in the wind. Though, given I am not a US citizen, there might be something going on here that I’m missing, therefore I haven’t taken off another point, which I otherwise would have done.

The ebook arc copy of The Garden Club Murder was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
7/10

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*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Killer in the Choir – Book 19 of The Fethering Mysteries by Simon Brett #Brainfluffbookreview #TheKillerintheChoirbookreview

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I was delighted to see this offering on Netgalley, having only recently had the pleasure of reading the previous book, The Liar in the Library – see my review here. So I was still in the groove with the Fethering regulars, as well as easily able to recall the foibles of the main protagonists, Jude and Carol.

Although she hadn’t known Leonard Mallett very well, nor liked him particularly, Carole Seddon feels duty bound to attend her fellow committee member’s funeral. As she suspected, the hymns, readings and sermon are all very predictable — not unlike Leonard himself. What she couldn’t have predicted was that the deceased’s daughter would use the occasion to publicly accuse her stepmother of murder. Did Heather Mallett really kill her husband, as many Fethering residents believe? Deciding to get to the heart of the matter, Carole’s neighbour Jude joins the new community choir – and discovers that amidst the clashing egos and petty resentments lurk some decidedly false notes. At least one chorister would appear to be hiding a deadly secret — and it’s up to Carole and Jude to unearth the truth.

What I particularly enjoy about this series, is that while the murder investigation is the engine that powers the plot, Brett also gives us a real slice of life within the Fethering community. We get an insight into what matters to this community – both good and bad – and Brett isn’t afraid to take a pop at the frailties of the characters he depicts. There is an edge to his observations and I enjoy seeing how he plays with our assumptions – and then throws in a twist, such as the fact that buttoned-up Carol previously had a fling with the village landlord. In fact, I don’t particularly like Carol, whose self-righteous, rather jealous behaviour frankly gets on my nerves – however those traits help to make her effective at worrying at a mystery until she has solved it to her satisfaction. It certainly doesn’t impact on my enjoyment, as her rather jaundiced, sour observations are also insightful and rather funny – and while I don’t like her, I do like the more easy-going, relaxed Jude.

I found this investigation even more enjoyable than the previous one – there were several real surprises that had me reading far into the night to find out what was going to happen next. I’d figured out what happened and why – until the denouement, when I realised that I’d got it completely wrong. Nonetheless, despite my complete misreading of the situation, the perpetrator and the reasons for the wicked deed made absolute sense – and the clues were there. In short, Brett writes a cracking whodunit with a very well-plotted mystery which is a joy to read.

I haven’t read all nineteen of these entertaining books – but given just how much I have enjoyed these last two, I am definitely going to be visiting Fethering again. This series is far too much fun to miss out on. While I obtained an arc of The Killer in the Choir from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

Review of AUDIOBOOK A Room Full of Bones – Book 4 of the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths #Brainfluffbookreview #ARoomFullofBonesaudiobookreview

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I had seen this one on special offer on Audible and as this is a series I’m currently enjoying – see my review of The Crossing Places, it seemed like a good idea to get hold of it. Would I enjoy listening to these characters as much I relish reading about them, though?

It is Halloween night, and the local museum in King’s Lynn is preparing for an unusual event – the opening of a coffin containing the bones of a medieval bishop. But when Ruth Galloway arrives to supervise, she finds a nasty surprise waiting for her…

And yes – I’ve heavily truncated the blurb which is far too chatty and this occult-tinged thriller is far too good to spoil by knowing a raft of major plotpoints in advance. I needn’t have worried about whether I’d enjoy listening to this one – I absolutely loved it. Jane McDowell does an excellent job with the narration as Ruth’s dry humour came through particularly well. This is my favourite book of the series so far. That gothic element Griffiths is fond of introducing into her stories this time around works magnificently well. I loved the way the plot steps over into paranormal, before Griffiths then provides an alternative, more mundane explanation – while still giving the reader the option of which one she’d prefer to go with…

Griffiths’ superpower is characterisation and she gets under the skin of her character cast wonderfully well, to the extent that she is able to introduce contradictory traits in her protagonists without it jarring. In short, she is thoroughly at home with these people so they ping off the page in effortless three-dimensional detail that I love.

I found Ruth’s ongoing struggle to keep working while bringing up her small daughter all too familiar – and massive kudos to Griffiths for choosing to highlight this under-represented issue in her series. While the previous book left me feeling a bit tetchy at her hand-wringing over whether she was good enough – this time, her gritted determination to protect her daughter leads her to a heart-breaking dilemma.

As for the storyline – this time around, it kept delivering twists I simply didn’t see coming and made more memorable, compelling listening. After I’d finished putting the final coat on the bathroom cupboard at 10.30 pm, I sat in the kitchen and listened a while longer as there was simply no way I could switch off my Kindle without knowing what would happen next. In amongst the unexpected deaths, Griffiths also tackles the issue of bones held by museums and universities that were collected during the UK’s colonial era that their indigenous descendants now want back. I really liked

Ruth’s discomfort as she considers the arguments. In short – there wasn’t a single aspect of this book that I could fault. The characters and setting – Griffith’s strengths – worked every bit as well as I’ve come to expect, but in addition the plotting and handling of the climactic scenes which in the past have tipped into melodrama, this time around were dealt with really well.

This is one of my favourite reads of the year so far.
10/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Green Man’s Foe – Book 2 of the Green Man series by Juliet E. McKenna #Brainfluffbookreview #TheGreenMansFoebookreview

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I absolutely fell in love with the previous book, which was one of my outstanding books last year – see my review of The Green Man’s Heir. This largely follows the genre conventions of urban fantasy where a protagonist with unique gifts helps to fight crime. The difference being that this isn’t in some city centre, it’s in the heart of the English countryside and the paranormal beings are dryads, naiads and nixes – not to mention the Green Man.

When you do a good job for someone, there’s a strong chance they’ll offer you more work or recommend you elsewhere. So Daniel Mackmain isn’t particularly surprised when his boss’s architect brother asks for his help on a historic house renovation in the Cotswolds.

Except Dan’s a dryad’s son, and he soon realises there’s a whole lot more going on. Ancient malice is stirring and it has made an alliance in the modern world. The Green Man expects Dan to put an end to this threat. Seeing the danger, Dan’s forced to agree. The problem is he’s alone in a place he doesn’t know, a hundred miles or more away from any allies of his own.

I dived back into this world with huge delight and immediately got swept back up into Dan’s problems. You don’t have to read The Green Man’s Heir to appreciate this one as each story is a standalone – but you are denying yourself a wonderful reading experience if you don’t. McKenna has managed to produce something unique – an urban fantasy adventure set in the heart of rural England. This gives the story a flavour all of its own as the countryside around the neglected stately home that Dan is working on is vividly described, along with the characters he encounters.

I liked the real sense of threat evoked by the creepy Aiden, a really well-rounded antagonist who I loved to hate throughout as he manipulates the lost teenagers who have drifted into his orbit because they come from socially deprived backgrounds with no prospects. The poignancy of their trapped existence is vividly depicted without any kind moralising or ‘telling’ by McKenna.

The aspect I also love about this series is the real sense of otherness about the supernatural beings – they are all disconcertingly odd and rather scary and despite the fact he is half-dryad, Dan doesn’t get any inside knowledge about their motivations. I read far later than I should have done as I couldn’t put this one down – but the snag is that I am now suffering from withdrawal symptoms as I am out the other side of this fabulous world and feeling rather bereft as a result. This is one of my outstanding reads of the year.
Highly recommended for anyone who has a pulse…
10/10

Friday Faceoff – Hope is a thing with feathers… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceofffeathercovers

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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 FEATHERS. I’ve selected The Devil’s Feather by Minette Walters as I think at least two of the covers are extraordinarily good…

 

This edition was produced by Alfred A. Knopf in August 2006 and is a strong contender. I love the drama of that red feather against the black background – a classic colour combination that always works well. For once, I’m not complaining about the rather ordinary white font, because with the red strands of feathers threaded through them, it gives that special lift so many title and author fonts lack. Overall, this classy offering is eye-catching and clever, with a strong clue as to the genre – what more could you ask from a cover?

 

Published in October 2006 by Pan Books (UK), this is also a really stylish design. The feather with the girl’s eye looking through is both arresting and original. I also very much like the author font – and given that is the book’s selling point, it makes sense to make that the major feature. However I’m less impressed with the chatter in the middle of the design, cluttering it up and diminishing the visual effect.

 

This edition, published by Macmillan in September 2005, shows what a huge impact colours can have. While the previous cover with the white background and tawny feather was eye-catching – this one with the black background and that single feather with the eye looking through is sheer class. Much as I love the first cover, this is the one that actually lifted the hair on the back of my neck. And no chatter across the cover to spoil that fabulous effect either!

 

This Dutch edition, produced by De Boekerij in 2006, is also an interesting cover. The view has the reader trapped behind a screen watching birds wheeling in the sky – the greenish hue and the whole design is really disturbing. While it isn’t my favourite, I do think it is effective at making me stop and look twice at what is going on. If I have a peeve, I think the small title font is underwhelming and an odd choice.

 

This Croatian edition, published in 2006 by Mozaik knjiga, is the most disappointing of all my choices and has more of a feel of someone let loose with photoshop. While a plain white background can be effective – as in the second choice – this time around it simply looks as if they couldn’t be bothered to add another layer of visual interest. And though I appreciate that the wing chopped off like that is supposed to somehow look wrong – it isn’t the right kind of wrongness, more that the design doesn’t hang together. Which is your favourite?

Sunday Post – 21st July, 2019 #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 feel like a cracked record – but this has been yet another really busy week. Last Monday I completed my Creative Writing course. It was a lovely way to end ten wonderful years of teaching with two beautiful bouquets of flowers and a voucher for dinner at my favourite vegan restaurant in Brighton. Being creative types, someone also sang a song they’d written for me and someone else recited a very funny poem about my teaching experiences with them… It’s been an emotional time, saying good-bye.

However, I didn’t have too much time to brood as Tuesday saw us sorting out three kitchen cupboards, me catching up with book reviews and and paperwork, then packing in readiness for my trip up to Lincolnshire to visit my friend Mhairi. On early Wednesday morning. Himself accompanied me as far as St Pancras station in London, and then I completed the rest of the journey on my own. Although I’d taken my Kindle, I spent most of my time looking out of the window at the lovely rural scenery. Mhairi was there to meet me after an uneventful journey that took some five and a half hours. We had a lovely time together catching up with Mhairi and her lovely mum and I was made to feel very welcome, especially by their gorgeous Alsatian, Jake, who very quickly was treating me like one of the family. In the middle of all the laughter and chatter – and one of the most delicious Indian dinners I’ve ever eaten at the local restaurant in Spilsby – we managed to complete our tax returns together. We’ve been doing this now for several years and it is so much better tackling such a horrible, stressful job alongside someone else. So I now feel very virtuous that I have that grotty chore out of the way for another year.

All too soon Friday morning came around and it was time to set off for home again – next time I visit Mhairi I will stay longer. Himself was waiting for me on the platform at King’s Cross and it was lovely to see him again, even though he’d scarcely had time to miss me… Yesterday we did an inventory of the freezer before going shopping, so this month we are going to be mostly eating frozen food (suitably defrosted, of course) to help eke out the pennies as tomorrow the builders arrive to start tackling the dangerous concrete canopy over the back door. Wish us luck!

Last week I read:

Witch-Hunt – Book 1 of Lodestone by Wendy Scott
Sabrina is thrust out of her sheltered life at Mistress Florisah’s healing school after the destruction of the witch-ancestor portraits and the appearance of Lauren the Destroyer’s ghost. An anti-witchcraft regime is poised on Karthalon’s borders threatening full scale genocide, unless Sabrina, the last of Lauren’s bloodline, can destroy the Lodestone and restore magic to Valloaria. Hundreds of years before Lauren had wrought the cataclysmic demise of the Council of Witches by unleashing the Lodestone and now Sabrina is the only one who can undo Lauren’s legacy.
This is a story about an act of desperate vengeance and the ongoing consequences that Sabrina is now trying to undo.

 

The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury
When Aladdin discovers Zahra’s jinni lamp, Zahra is thrust back into a world she hasn’t seen in hundreds of years—a world where magic is forbidden and Zahra’s very existence is illegal. She must disguise herself to stay alive, using ancient shape-shifting magic, until her new master has selected his three wishes.
I recalled the buzz around this retelling of the Aladdin story from the viewpoint of the jinn when it first came out, but somehow hadn’t got around to reading it. I’m glad I did so now, as I’d hit something of a slump. This was so much more than a romance – and I will be reviewing this one in due course.

 

Changeling – Book 1 of the Sorcery and Society series by Molly Harper
If 14-year-old Cassandra Reed makes it through her first day at Miss Castwell’s Institute for the Magical Instruction of Young Ladies without anyone discovering her secret, maybe, just maybe, she’ll let herself believe that she really does belong at Miss Castwell’s. Except Cassandra Reed’s real name is Sarah Smith and up until now, she lived her whole life in the Warren, serving a magical family, the Winters, as all non-magical “Snipes” are bound by magical Guardian law to do. That is, until one day, Sarah accidentally levitates Mrs. Winter’s favorite vase in the parlor…
I enjoy magical school stories and this one is an engrossing read with a young, upbeat character who mostly prevails without becoming too smart or clever. Review to follow.

 

The House at Sea’s End – Book 3 of the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths
Ruth Galloway has just returned from maternity leave and is struggling to juggle work and motherhood. When a team from the University of North Norfolk, investigating coastal erosion, finds six bodies at the foot of the cliff, she is immediately put on the case.
This is a series I started a long time ago and am now catching up on. I mostly enjoyed this one, though there are times when Ruth’s hit and miss mothering annoys me. But it is a refreshing change to find a protagonist trying to juggle a working life with the role of a mother and having to make all those hard decisions that confront so many women caught in the same situation.

 

My posts last week:

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone

Friday Faceoff featuring Dichronauts by Greg Egan

Review of INDIE Ebook Ascending – Book 1 of the Vardeshi Saga by Meg Pechenick

Review of AUDIOBOOK Mythos – written and narrated by Stephen Fry

Teaser Tuesday featuring The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury

Review of ARC Jack Jetstark’s Intergalactic Freak Show by Jennifer Lee Rossman

Sunday Post – 14th July 2019

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

Morningstar’s Thoughts on Reading https://literacyletters.wordpress.com/2019/07/18/morningstars-thoughts-on-reading/ What a fabulous definition of why we all read…

Down the Rabbit Hole… to a Book Cover! https://ailishsinclair.com/2019/07/book-cover/ These pics are so much fun – especially if you are a fan of Alice in Wonderland.

About that ‘Writing Vacation’ https://writerunboxed.com/2019/07/19/about-that-writing-vacation/ I read this feeling really nicely smug that I hadn’t fallen into these traps on my writing retreats – and managing to get a great deal written.

Is Our Company Enough for Pets? https://chechewinnie.com/is-our-company-enough-for-our-pets/ Cheche raises an uncomfortable question here for those of us who are or who have been pet owners…

5 oddly specific storylines I like in books https://thisislitblog.com/2019/07/16/5-oddly-specific-storylines-i-love-in-books/ Shruti shares with us her top five favourite storylines – which had me wondering about mine. What about you?

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

Review of KINDLE Ebook The Janus Stone – Book 2 of the Ruth Galloway Mysteries by Elly Griffiths #Brainfluffbookreview #TheJanusStonebookreview

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I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this classy series, The Crossing Places – see my review here. As you can see, this was far too long ago – and recently I recalled that this was a series I had intended to continue. I didn’t even have to track it down – we already have The Janus Stone… *blushes*.

It’s been only a few months since archaeologist Ruth Galloway found herself entangled in a missing persons case, barely escaping with her life. But when construction workers demolishing a large old house in Norwich uncover the bones of a child beneath a doorway—minus its skull—Ruth is once again called upon to investigate. Is it a Roman-era ritual sacrifice, or is the killer closer at hand?

I liked the fact that this book takes up the story only a few months after The Crossing Place and a particular plotline is a direct consequence of an encounter between Ruth and another of the main characters. And yes… for once, I’m going to produce a spoiler – during this book, Ruth discovers she is pregnant.

It wasn’t until Ruth is working through the decision whether to continue with her pregnancy and throughout this murder mystery, is coping with the various symptoms, both physical and emotional, that I realised we hardly ever read of pregnant women in crime novels – unless they are the victims. So I was on the edge of my seat throughout, hoping that the pregnancy wouldn’t be a device which would suddenly end midway through the book to provide more vulnerability for our feisty archaeologist.

A main strength of Griffiths’ writing is her characterisation. Ruth is a complex, three-dimensional protagonist, who feels vulnerable about her appearance – she struggles with her weight. And one of the joys of this novel was the collection of other characters, a number who first appeared in the previous book. While Ruth is the main character, there is another protagonist who also drives the action and that is Detective Harry Nelson, who is leading the investigation triggered by discovery of the disturbing skeleton. Though I think my favourite character is Cathbad, whose mysticism is regarded with scepticism by Ruth, although she is fond of him and his knack of turning up when she most needs him.

However, while I enjoyed the writing, the characterisation and the excellent scene setting, I was slightly underwhelmed by the melodramatic nature of the plot. I am definitely going to continue with this series, but while halfway through the book I was confidently expecting to give this book ten stars, I ended up giving it eight due to this aspect of the story.
8/10

Sunday Post – 23rd June, 2019 #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’ve been AWOL this week – which has been something of a roller-coaster… We have been embarking on a series of home improvements, given it’s far too long since we spruced up the house and duly got someone in to look at the guttering, which clearly needed replacing. Only it didn’t. Once the builders investigated, it rapidly became clear that we needed a new roof, instead. The roofing felt is like paper mache and the ends of the joists are rotten. The cowboys who replaced our soffits (Anglian Windows, in case anyone is interested…) must have been well aware of the situation when they fitted the soffits by screwing them straight into the rotten joists, but bodged the job and said nothing. Suddenly the house is swathed in scaffolding, the tiles are off, the rotten wood in the process of being replaced, along with the felt. Meanwhile we are frantically arranging finance… The sudden, sharp rainstorms hammering down throughout the week haven’t helped, either.

Other news – I have started my Poetry short course at Northbrook this week, which went well. My writing buddy Mhairi came down for a few days and while she was here, the proof copy of Netted arrived through the post with the awesome cover looking every bit a fabulous as we thought it would. And I spent yesterday with my sister who took me out shopping to celebrate my birthday. In the meantime, I keep waiting for my life to get more boring… please?

Last week I read:

The Killer in the Choir – Book 19 of the Fethering Mysteries by Simon Brett
Although she hadn’t known Leonard Mallett very well, nor liked him particularly, Carole Seddon feels duty bound to attend her fellow committee member’s funeral. As she suspected, the hymns, readings and sermon are all very predictable — not unlike Leonard himself. What she couldn’t have predicted was that the deceased’s daughter would use the occasion to publicly accuse her stepmother of murder. Did Heather Mallett really kill her husband, as many Fethering residents believe? Deciding to get to the heart of the matter, Carole’s neighbour Jude joins the new community choir – and discovers that amidst the clashing egos and petty resentments lurk some decidedly false notes. At least one chorister would appear to be hiding a deadly secret — and it’s up to Carole and Jude to unearth the truth.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Liar in the Library recently, so was delighted when given the opportunity to also read this offering. Once more Fethering is buzzing with yet another murder – and getting reacquainted with these characters was even more fun than I’d anticipated. I shall be reading more of these…

The Dark Lord of Derkholm AUDIOBOOK – Book 1 of the Derkholm series by Diana Wynne Jones
Everyone – wizards, soldiers, farmers, elves, dragons, kings and queens alike – is fed up with Mr Chesney’s Pilgrim Parties: groups of tourists from the world next door who descend en masse every year to take the Grand Tour. What they expect are all the trappings of a grand fantasy adventure, including the Evil Enchantress, Wizard Guides, the Dark Lord, Winged Minions, and all. And every year different people are chosen to play these parts. But now they’ve had enough: Mr Chesney may be backed by a very powerful demon, but the Oracles have spoken. Now it’s up to the Wizard Derk and his son Blade, this year’s Dark Lord and Wizard Guide, not to mention Blade’s griffin brothers and sisters, to save the world from Mr Chesney’s depredations.
This is billed as a children’s book – but it doesn’t feel like it. It seems far more like a clever exploration of what happens when people flock to a wonderful place to experience said wonder – all on their own terms, of course. And while parts are funny, other parts are quite dark. But all wonderfully gripping and well realised in this audiobook.

The Halfling – Book 1 of the Aria Fae series by H.D. Gordon
What do you get when you take a highly trained Halfling teenager and throw her into the concrete jungle of Grant City? One badass vigilante, of course! 17-year-old Aria Fae is no stranger to danger. She’s super fast, incredibly strong, and on her own for the first time ever.
Throw in a brand new best friend who’s a computer genius, a mysterious and super-fly older neighbor, and a drug that’s turning people into maniacs, and you’ve got the potion for trouble.
This YA superhero read was unexpectedly engrossing. Yes… Aria has it all – super-human strength and top-notch training. She also has enhanced hearing and sense of smell, as well as effective night vision. But, after a series of traumatic events that dumped her into Grant City, alone and friendless – she is also struggling with depression.

My posts last week:

Review of Broken Heart Attack – Book 2 of the Braxton Campus Mysteries by James J. Cudney

Friday Faceoff featuring The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Outside by Ada Hoffmann

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – and I apologise for not visiting or comment all that much. It’s been a tad full on. I hope you have a wonderful week.

Friday Faceoff – Ô, Sunlight! The most precious gold to be found on Earth… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoff

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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 the SUMMER SOLSTICE, seeing as this is the longest day of the year in this hemisphere. I’ve selected The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon.

 

This edition was produced by Random House Children’s Publishers UK in October 2016. This is the default cover for this YA best-seller and it’s easy to see why. I love the colours and the fabulous effect of the different embroidery threads. Somewhere online, I recall seeing the footage of the master being made – because, yes, the cover was actually stitched. It’s my favourite.

 

Published in June 2017 by Bonnier Carlsen, this Swedish edition has the potential to be successful, particularly with the contrast between the yellow and black, which always works well. However they then sabotaged the effectiveness of that strong colour selection, by insisting on including almost everything that occurs in the book in a series of line drawings, which makes the effect too busy and cluttered to be really effective.

 

This Romanian edition, published by Editura Young Art have overcome the issue that makes this something of a problem for foreign language editions – given the cover was initially stitched with the title in English – by stitching their own version. I very much like it, but the colours lack the vibrancy and impact of the original cover chiefly because the thread is finer.

 

This Indonesian edition, produced by Spring in April 2017, have taken a different approach to that stitched cover with a wonderful cover that is my second favourite. I love this one – so beautiful and striking. It also references some of the themes/subjects that feature in the book – because if there is an issue with that original cover, is that it isn’t immediately apparent that it is basically a YA romance.

 

This Vietnamese edition, published in May 2019 by Wings Books, has taken yet another approach. I really like the blocky bold depiction of the sun within that lovely rich blue background – it’s colourful and eye-catching and nicely references the title. My one grizzle is that the white title font is very boring and while I love the creative arrangement of the lettering amongst the ends of the sunrays, I feel there is a risk of the title getting lost amongst the design. Which is your favourite?

Review of INDIE Ebook Broken Heart Attack – Book 2 of the Braxton Campus Mysteries series by James J. Cudney #Brainfluffbookreview #BrokenHeartAttackbookreview

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I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this series, Academic Curveball – see my review here, so when I realised the second book was already out, and given the major cliff-hanger ending, I got hold of this one.

When an extra ticket becomes available to attend the dress rehearsal of Braxton’s King Lear production, Kellan tags along with Nana D and her buddies, sisters-in-law Eustacia and Gwendolyn Paddington, to show support for the rest of the Paddington family. When one of them appears to have a heart attack in the middle of the second act, Nana D raises her suspicions and asks Kellan to investigate who killed her friend. Amidst family members suddenly in debt and a secret rendezvous between an unlikely pair, Kellan learns the Paddingtons might not be as clean-cut as everyone thinks. But did one of them commit murder for an inheritance?

Cudney’s smooth, readable style scooped me up and swiftly drew me back into life on Braxton campus. While you might initially flounder slightly if you hadn’t had the pleasure of reading Academic Curveball, Cudney ensures you’ll soon make sense of what is going on – and indeed, there’s plenty to keep poor Kellen on the back foot.

His main relationship is with his feisty, sharp-tongued grandmother, Nana D. I really like the intergenerational dynamic within the story. Kellen’s grandmother isn’t introduced just to give us a few smiles at his expense as her snarky replies leaves him waving in the wind, Nana D is important to the story as a character in her own right. I also like the fact that the victim is one of her elderly friends – and that her death is investigated with the same rigour as the hapless youngster in the previous book. Far too much casual ageism is exhibited within this genre, so encountering Cudney’s take on the older characters in his story is refreshing change.

The mystery is nicely twisty, with plenty of potential suspects. I also liked the character development moving forward through the series – while the Sheriff was extremely hostile towards Kellen’s involvement in the previous book, she becomes less so during this investigation, as Kellen proves his worth and gains her rather grudging trust. Once more, Cudney’s skill in handling the whodunit is apparent, while I had a couple of candidates in mind for the wicked deed – neither of them were responsible and yet the culprit had a solid motive.

Any niggles? Well, I was floored by the revelation at the end of the first book and very eager to find out exactly what had happened – to the extent of skimming the first few pages to discover the outcome. If I have a grizzle, it would be that this major plotpoint was slightly squeezed out of the story at the expense of the investigation. So I’m hoping the next book will put Kellen’s personal issues right in the centre of the story, because I’m very keen to see him finally face up to that cauldron of regret, anger and thwarted love…
9/10